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The Road to 








THE circumstances in which this Preface is written and 
this book is published may at first glance make an account 
of India's progress towards self-government during the 
last three decades seem somewhat academic. Second 
thoughts, however, will quickly dispel this illusion and 
show that both the actual part which India is playing in 
this second world war, and the manner and kind of 
solution to her immense political problem which is ulti- 
mately reached, bear very directly on the still more 
immense problem of whether the world is to be slave or 
free, governed by reason and justice or by violence and 

Within whatever shape the new world order may be 
evolved after this war a leading part must be played by 
the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations, and 
in this lesser world order comprised by the Society of 
British nations and colonies the position of India is of 
outstanding importance, since she will be the pioneer of 
the non-British and non-European peoples in the British 
Empire along the road which leads to the intimate 
association exemplified by Great Britain and the other 
self-governing British nations overseas. There is much 
significance in the date 1908 at which the developments 
recorded in this book begin, for it was in 1908, after the 
final failure of Joseph Chamberlain's scheme for Imperial 
Federation and the British Government's hopes for more 
or less complete centralization of defence expenditure and 
policy in these islands, that the new and still somewhat 
strange conception of a world-wide commonwealth of 
autonomous nations began to take on a definite shape. 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

At this time, too, the union of the four colonies of South 
Africa, including the two recently hostile Boer states, with 
fully responsible self-government like Canada and the 
other Dominions, marked perhaps more dramatically than 
anything else in the history of the Empire the change 
which had taken place since the middle of the nineteenth 
century in our ideas of Imperial relations and the form 
and character of our Imperial society. Since 1908 it has 
been clear that India would provide the crucial test of the 
universality of the principles embodied in the Common- 
wealth of British nations of British and European origin. 
The developments of the years from 1908 onwards, and 
particularly since 1930 when the Round Table Conference 
met, have shown that as far as the British peoples are 
concerned the principles of their Commonwealth are 
universal and can be extended to peoples of a very 
different origin and tradition. If there was any doubt 
about that, after the Round Table Conference and the 
passing of the 1935 Government of India Act, it has been 
dispelled by the declarations of the British Government 
and speeches of the present Secretary of State for India, 
Mr. Amery, since this war began. 

The acute reader, however, will notice that the impor- 
tant political developments, namely the Morlcy-Minto 
Reforms which open this story, gave Hindu-Muslim 
relations a new and vitally important turn. It took them 
out of the religious and social spheres into the political. 
Communal representation, which Lord Morley fought so 
strenuously, was the result of the insistence of Muslims 
themselves. It was the first hint of the possible emergence 
of the concept of a nation within a nation in India, 
which, as the closing passages of the book show, has now 
become somewhat sharply defined and has grown to dis- 
quieting strength. The lesson of this account of India's 



progress towards self-government is exactly the same as 
the lesson which Canada, Australia, New Zealand and 
South Africa learnt, namely, that within the British 
Commonwealth or Society of Nations, responsible self- 
government, or home rule, or whatever we like to call it, 
is waiting to be taken and used whenever the conditions 
of the country concerned make it possible for its people 
to reach out their hand. The conditions for this are a 
certain political awareness and maturity, and above all 
and this is the lesson taught powerfully by Canada and 
South Africa a reasonable degree of national solidarity, 
a willingness to consider sectarian or partisan claims as 
no more than an element in the life of a whole nation 
whose claims come first. 

This is the position which India has reached now, and 
it is the simple truth that the solution of her political 
problem now depends chiefly on her own people. They 
have to furnish not only political aptitudes, but also the 
spiritual power to overcome the undeniably strong but 
certainly not insuperable obstacles to their national 
organization and national freedom which are found in 
India's own internal conditions. We are confident that 
these obstacles will be overcome, but only the future can 
show how they will be overcome. 



THE year 1908 marked a definite dividing line in Indian 
history, for, on November ist, a proclamation by King 
Edward VII announced that "the principle of repre- 
sentative institutions which had . . . been gradually 
introduced" was to be "prudently extended." There had, 
of course, been many previous political reforms in India, 
notably those contained in the Charter Act of 1833 and 
the two Indian Councils Acts of 1861 and 1892. By these 
three Acts, the principles of equality of all British subjects 
before the law, of the right of the Indian peoples to 
representation in their legislative bodies, and, finally, of 
their right to elect their representatives, had been suc- 
cessively introduced. These three principles are the true 
foundations of any system of democratic government, and, 
although the principles of representation and election, 
contained in the Acts of 1861 and 1892 respectively, were 
somewhat severely limited in scope, nevertheless, the 
principles themselves are living elements in a constitution 
and must either develop or die. In 1908 they developed, 
and thus made all the great and fundamental changes of 
succeeding years both necessary and inevitable. 

But this year was a dividing line in Indian political 
development in another important sense, for it lies between 
the old objectives and technique of the Indian National 
Congress and the new. Although the National Congress 
by no means comprises the whole of organized Indian 
political opinion, lacking, as it does, the support of the 
vast majority of the eighty millions or so of the Moham- 
medans, the almost equally numerous Untouchables, the 
Anglo-Indians,* the Parsees, the Indian Liberals, and a 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

number of other interests or communities, nevertheless it 
is by far the strongest and most representative political 
organization in India. It sets the pace of the advance 
towards, and determines the trend and scope of, the 
objectives of Indian Nationalist opinion. Its policy and 
fortunes may, therefore, be taken as the Indian political 

By origin, the All-India Congress is an offshoot of 
English Liberalism, or, perhaps, Radicalism, and through- 
out a great part of its history, from the year 1885, when 
it came into existence owing to the efforts of an English- 
man, a former member of the Indian Civil Service, and 
definitely took the form and character of a political 
organization on the suggestion of the Viceroy, Lord 
Dufferin, its policy, character, and leading personalities 
were all typical of constitutional Liberalism. But, like 
every other political organization, the Indian National 
Congress from its very first years began to witness the 
rise and spread of other and rival doctrines and objectives 
to those with which it started. There was, in fact, from 
the beginning a specifically "Indian" school of thought 
in Congress which sought not to foster and gain control 
over the alien political institutions of their Western rulers, 
but, rather, to oust both them and those who had brought 
them to India, and replace them by a purely indigenous 
system of government administered by Indians them- 
selves. The famines of the middle and late 'nineties, and 
the appearance of bubonic plague at the same time, 
acted, so to speak, as a catalyser which precipitated the 
first of the modern extremist political movements in 
India, and the fierce passions roused by the partition of 
Bengal in 1905 gave added energy and extension to the 
active and, indeed, revolutionary nationalist . agitation 
which had been set on foot by the well-known Maratha 



leader, B. G. Tilak, on the extreme left of the Congress 
organization, and it was at the annual session of the 
All-India National Congress at Surat at the turn of the 
year 1907 and 1908 that extremism, with its creed of 
India for the Indians, and its technique of direct action, 
challenged the old constitutional doctrine and leadership 
of Congress to a fight to the death. 

And lastly, by 1908 the tide of enthusiasm aroused in 
India by Japan's victory over Russia was running high. 
The events of the Russo-Japanese War gave a powerful 
fillip to the Indian Nationalist Movement and mightily 
stimulated the imagination and aspirations of masses of 
Indians who had hitherto taken no interest in politics. 
For many in India, horizons were widened and national 
objectives were multiplied, those in the economic and 
cultural fields coming into prominence side by side with 
the more familiar objectives of the old political field. 
Both internal and external forces were thus at work to 
expand and transform the ideals of Indian Nationalism, 
and from 1908 onwards we see the effects of these forces 
most vividly portrayed. 



Preface 9 

Introductory 13 

I. India and the Commonwealth 19 

II. The Morley-Minto Reforms 28 

III. The War, 1914-1918 39 

IV. The 1919 Reforms 47 
V. The Working of the 1919 Reforms 56 

VI. The Struggle for the Constitution, 

1921-1926 69 

VII. The Setting for the Round Table 

Conference 83 

VIIL The Round Table Conference 97 

IX. The Government of India Act, 1935 113 

x - 1937~ 1 9> I22 

The Cripps Mission 136 

Index " 143 

17 B 


India and the Commonwealth 

THE political progress which will be recorded in the 
following pages is implicit in India's membership of the 
British Commonwealth of Nations. During the Round 
Table Conference and the sessions of the Joint Select 
Committee of Parliament during 1933 and 1934, there 
was much talk about "Dominion Status" being India's 
ultimate political goal. Some Indians, of course, demand 
complete independence, whilst in some British circles 
there was still, at the time of the Joint Select Committee, 
reluctance to go as far as to admit that Dominion Status 
should be declared by statute to be the objective of 
political reforms in India. All this discussion was academic 
and showed a certain ignorance of British Imperial 
history and the fundamental principles on which the 
relations between the different members of the modern 
British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations are based. 
The truth is that no arbitrary limit can be set to the 
political growth of any unit of the British Empire. Free- 
dom is its very essence, and every one of its component 
parts or peoples grows naturally into that degree of 
freedom for which its general progress fits it. This prin- 
ciple is fully illustrated, not only by the history of the 
Dominions but by the experience of every other unit of 
the Empire, and by none so clearly and decisively as by 
the experience of India. At different times during the 
nineteenth century the basic principles of democratic 
government had been introduced into the government 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

of India by Acts of the British Parliament, the principles, 
namely, of the equality of all citizens before the law, of 
representation of the people in the Government, and of 
the election of the people's representatives by the people 
themselves. In a word, the political history of India was 
repeating slowly and hesitantly, no doubt, because of 
peculiar circumstances the history of those British 
Colonies which are now the Dominions of the British 
Commonwealth, and it was as certain as anything in 
politics could be that India would continue to reproduce 
the experience of the Dominions as her political develop- 
ment passed through the successive stages in which they 
had preceded her. 

Similarly, just as Dominion Status that is, full autono- 
mous home rule is implicit in India's membership of 
the British Commonwealth of Nations, so independence 
is implicit in Dominion Status as contained in the Statute 
of Westminster. 

This essential connection between the political life and 
progress of India and that of the rest of the British 
Empire is shown by the relation which specific move- 
ments of progress in other British countries bear to the 
outstanding events in India's own onward march. Thus, 
Pitt's India Act of 1784, which was the first Act of 
Parliament to give the Crown some direct responsibility 
for the good government of India, and was meant, as 
Pitt himself said, "to give to the Crown the power of 
guiding the politics of India with as little means of 
corrupt influence as possible," was an offshoot of a 
reforming movement in Great Britain which gained its 
greatest impetus from the feelings aroused by the revolt 
of our American colonies. And with the nineteenth 
century came the introduction of certain basic principles 
of democracy into the system of Indian government. 


India and the Commonwealth 

The famous Charter Act of 1833, in which the principle 
of the equality of all the King's subjects before the law 
was implicit, would not, in all probability, have done 
more than revise the commercial practice of the East 
India Company had it not been an Act of the first 
reformed Parliament, itself the crowning achievement of 
that reforming movement of which Pitt's Act was one 
of the earliest fruits. 

We wait for nearly a whole generation before we come 
to the next great landmark in India's political progress, 
the Indian Councils Act of 1861. Much had happened, in 
India, in Great Britain, and in the rest of the Empire, 
during the years between 1861 and 1833. In this country 
the Chartist movement had brought the revolutionary 
spirit of the Continent into our politics and had made 
it clear that political power would have to be extended 
from the upper and middle classes to at any rate the 
town workers, and the whole movement had quickened 
and strengthened the natural British instinct for free and 
democratic government. This in turn worked powerfully 
in support of the movement for autonomy in the British 
colonies, now the Dominions, and made more swift and 
easy the passage to responsible self-government in which 
Canada was the pioneer. And so, in 1861, after the fierce 
storm of the Indian Mutiny, when the system of govern- 
ment in India demanded a thorough overhaul, the 
British Parliament, as though by instinct, took India at 
any rate to the beginning of the straight highroad of 
democracy, along which her colonies had already pro- 
gressed so far, by bringing into the Indian constitution 
the principle of representation of the people. It is true 
that the principle was applied cautiously and only 
partially, but the whole effect of the Councils Act was 
to direct the political development of India towards the 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

goal of democratic government by a representative legis- 

And, from the late i86o's onwards, the pressure on the 
Indian Government for political reform began to come 
from Indian as well as from British quarters. Indeed, by 
the end of the 1 870*8, when the second Afghan War 
broke out, a strongly critical Indian Press was already 
in existence, notably in Bengal. So outspoken was Press 
comment on governmental activities that special powers 
had to be taken to deal with it. But it proved to be the 
beginning of the modern Indian Nationalist movement, 
and from 1880 onwards organized political opinion in 
India hostile to the continuance of the bureaucratic 
regime grew continually stronger. Once more a develop- 
ment in India was strengthened by contemporary 
developments elsewhere in the Empire, for, just at this 
juncture, Mr. Gladstone returned to power with a keen 
interest in Indian affairs and a fixed determination to 
apply more liberal principles to the Indian Government. 
His appointment of Lord Ripon as Viceroy in 1881 
showed this determination clearly, and one of Lord 
Ripon's reforms, directed towards making Europeans in 
India amenable under certain conditions to Indian 
judical officers, was the event which brought the Indian 
National Congress into existence, and therewith began 
the long political struggle, directed towards ever wider 
objectives, which has persisted to the present day. And, 
just as the old North American colonists were helped and 
supported by a strong section of opinion in this country, 
so Indian nationalists have throughout their long contest 
never been without powerful and active sympathisers in 
Great Britain. 

As the nineteenth century drew to its close it became 


India and the Commonwealth 

more and more obvious that the pace of political change 
in India was being speeded up by events outside as well 
as inside the country, and the Indian Councils Act of 
1892 like the Act of 1861, a full generation later in time 
than the last important political reform preceding it 
was a notable step further towards the achievement of a 
democratic system of government, for it introduced into 
India the principle of election of representatives in the 
Legislature, these having previously been nominated. The 
principle of representation also was strengthened and 
extended, and the lines of future political development 
in India were thus firmly set in the direction of parlia- 
mentary responsible self-government. 

With the turn of the century came the appointment of 
Lord Curzon as Viceroy, and with him the most notable 
of all the attempts to make good and efficient govern- 
ment a substitute for self-government. Lord Curzon's 
labours in administrative reform were heroic, and the 
machinery of Indian government became in his hands 
probably the most efficient of its kind in the whole world. 
If technical competence, justice, and benevolent inten- 
tion could ever have taken the place of self-government, 
then the government of India, as left by Lord Curzon, 
would surely have done so. But the die had been cast 
against this consummation long ago, and, indeed, before 
the end of his Viceroyalty and the arrival of his successor, 
Lord Minto, it had become obvious that the Indian 
Councils Act of 1892 would no longer satisfy advanced 
Indian opinion. Already, too, the operations of local 
government bodies had begun to make Indians in the 
villages and fields conscious of the fact that the operations 
of government concerned them personally and vitally, 
and it is from these days that we begin to trace the rise 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

of the masses as a political factor, at first inert and 
passive, tools to be used by others, but later more active 
and vocal, beginning to think and act for themselves. 
The story of the Morley-Minto reforms calls for separate 
treatment because of their outstanding importance in the 
story of Indian constitutional development, and because 
they were the theatre of the first great political clash 
between Hindus and Mohammedans. But here we should 
not fail to notice their coincidence in time with the 
creation of the Union of South Africa as a self-governing 
Dominion. Precisely the same influences were at work 
moulding the future political destiny of India as carried 
out the truly creative act of statesmanship in South 
Africa, and the stamp of the long British experience of 
imperial government is all over the Morley-Minto reforms. 
Indeed, the decade which saw these two things the 
creation of the Union of South Africa and the Morley- 
Minto reforms is like the decade which saw the Durham 
Report and the Union of the two Canadas, one of the 
great flowering periods of our Empire's history, and in 
it we see how the shape and quality of Indian political 
development are literally an offshoot of the political life 
of the whole British Commonwealth of Nations. 

Hitherto we have been considering the influence of 
India's membership of the British Commonwealth on her 
general relations with Great Britain. But that influence 
does not end there. It has deeply affected the structure 
of the future national State of India and the constitu- 
tional relations between the Central Government of the 
country and every one of its constituent parts. This 
remark applies not only to the relations between the 
Central and Provincial Governments in British India, but 
also to those between British India and the Indian States. 


India and the Commonwealth 

In a word, the conception of a Federation of All-India, 
and the possibility of translating this conception into the 
living, tangible form of a federal Indian nation-state, are 
both products of India's membership of the British 
Commonwealth. Like India's entry into the straight road 
which leads to responsible self-government of the demo- 
cratic, parliamentary type, her adoption of the federal 
as opposed to the unitary form of constitution has come 
about almost unconsciously, at least in the earliest stages 
of the process. None of the Indian Provinces, not even 
the three old Presidency Governments of Madras, Bengal 
and Bombay, are "natural" units, either geographically 
or ethnically, in the sense that England, Wales and 
Scotland are natural units. They are all more or less 
accidental products of British Indian history, and the 
same can be said of many, if not most, of the Indian 
States. In other words, they are administrative units, and 
until the Government of India Act of 1919 for which, 
however, the Morley-Minto reforms paved the way 
they were, for almost all administrative and governmental 
purposes, merely agencies of the Central Government. 

But not for all purposes. As far back as 1870-1871 
Lord Mayo introduced certain financial reforms which, 
in effect, started these subordinate provincial agencies on 
a march which was to end in due course at the goal of 
provincial autonomy in a federal India. The ideas and 
the spirit behind Lord Mayo's financial reforms were 
typically British in their practical character and in the 
strictly defined limits of their scope. He decentralized the 
collection and expenditure of certain forms of revenue 
for the greater convenience and economy of both the 
Central and Provincial Governments, and decade by 
decade his successors extended this scheme of decentrali- 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

zation until, even before the Act of 1919, there grew up 
a definite division of financial authority between centre 
and provinces. But the story does not end with this. 
Practical convenience was, no doubt, the immediate 
compelling motive which led to the initiation of this 
process of financial decentralization, but behind it all 
was the example of the States and Provinces of the other 
great British countries, especially Canada and Australia, 
where federation, carried out against fierce resistance at 
times from strongly individualistic colonies, was recog- 
nized as the only just and effective form of government. 
In sheer size, India compares with either Canada or 
Australia, and in the sharpness of her ethnological and 
political divisions she exceeds them. It is no wonder, 
therefore, that the ideas of successive Viceroys and Secre- 
taries of State for India should have been moulded, at 
first, almost instinctively, and then consciously and of set 
purpose, by the experience of these other British countries 
until, in 1919, India became, as we shall see, a quasi- 
federation before any question of an All-India Federation 
had become a living or, apparently, a practical propo- 

And lastly, behind all these somewhat obvious influences 
exerted on India's political development by the experience 
of the other members of the British Commonwealth of 
Nations, were the ideas and opinions of the peoples of 
Great Britain and her sister self-governing Dominions. 
For over half a century these have exerted a steady 
pressure and by no means an always silent and unseen 
pressure on British imperial policy in general. And, 
certainly since 1918, the presence of Indian delegates at 
the Assembly and other meetings of the League of Nations 
and at meetings of the Imperial Conference have made 


India and the Commonwealth 

a purely subordinate status for India increasingly anoma- 
lous, and, indeed, impossible. In short, there could be no 
greater fallacy than to regard developments in the rela- 
tions between India and Great Britain as the product and 
concern of the movement of events and opinion in those 
two countries alone. On the contrary, they are an integral 
part of the whole grand process of the development of 
British imperial relations in general. 



The Morley-Minto Reforms 

IN 1908 India was a strange mixture of ancient and 
modern, with the ancient still vastly predominant. 
Modern industry had made its appearance nearly half a 
century earlier in the cotton mills of Bombay, and by 
1908 the country had a far from negligible, if still limited, 
industrial equipment. In Bombay City and other impor- 
tant centres of the Bombay Presidency the cotton industry 
had grown to real strength, and it had extended elsewhere 
in India, notably in Madras and in the United Provinces. 
In Bengal the jute industry was already a giant. Leather 
was extensively worked in the United Provinces, and 
wool in the Punjab. The greatest development of iron 
and steel in the Tata works was still to come, but, in 1908, 
India had long possessed an iron industry, and even 
exported some of the products of her foundries. A whole 
host of specialized Indian industries in brass, lacquer, 
ivory, gold and silver, enamel, copper, and so on were 
to be found throughout the length and breadth of the 
land, providing employment for scores of thousands. 
Mining industries, too, were important, and transport 
and engineering called for the services of large numbers 
of workmen. 

Nevertheless, the total numbers engaged in these and 
other industrial activities were insignificant compared 
with those who worked either directly or indirectly in 
agriculture. India, in 1908, was still a land of villages 
rather than towns as she had always been in the past 


The Morley-Minto Reforms 

and still is to-day and the conditions of life of her many 
people were not only rural but primitive. The fall of the 
rain, the ripening of their crops, and the welfare of their 
cattle these were the things which filled the lives and 
occupied the thoughts of the vast majority of Indian men 
and women. Government was to them something remote 
and incomprehensible, a natural phenomenon like the 
sun or the wind, whose processes they could neither 
influence nor control. It was enough if the lesser Govern- 
ment officials refrained from pressing too hardly on them, 
if the claims of the moneylender were not too exorbitant, 
and if disease and scarcity did not ravage them and their 
animals too cruelly. 

Of the immense number of Indian villages, only a tiny 
proportion were on a metalled road, and fewer, far fewer, 
on or within very easy reach of a railway. The system of 
railway trunk lines ran through India from north to 
south and east to west, extended and magnified by a 
steady growing number of branch and feeder lines. But 
India is a very big country, and much of her surface 
opposes great natural difficulties to the building of rail- 
ways or is too sparsely populated to make them profitable. 
It is the same with metalled roads. Their cost and the 
extent of the empty or almost empty spaces through 
which they must run has always imposed several limita- 
tions on their construction. 

These and similar considerations apply to the building 
of schools and hospitals, to drainage and other forms of 
public works. But in the matter of irrigation of all sorts 
canal, storage-tank, artesian and tube wells India was 
already well provided, impressive though the growth of 
irrigation has been within her borders from the year 1908 
until the present time. 

But in spite of the growth of industry, transport, irri- 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

gation, communications, education, health, and so on, 
in the country from 1908, India at the beginning of our 
survey was still quite definitely a backward country, 
with immense areas of her surface inhabited by a poverty- 
stricken people living in conditions which had not altered 
fundamentally in a thousand years, except in one par- 
ticular. But that particular was one of literally vital 
importance. By 1908 it was no longer possible for famine 
to sweep away the inhabitants of whole great tracts 
of India, as it had done before the growth of irriga- 
tion and communications set inexorable limits to the 
effects of the vagaries of India's climate. And by 1908, 
too, the appalling scourges of the great epidemics 
cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox and others were 
being visibly held in check, and even driven back. India 
is not a healthy country for the most part, but the public 
health services have at any rate bridled the great epidemic 

The comparative slowness in political and general 
social and economic development in India can thus be 
understood. But on that other side of a people's develop- 
ment the intangible, unmeasurable development of the 
mind and spirit there had been progress out of all pro- 
portion even to that achieved in administration and 
public health. Among certain classes of the population, 
and especially in certain parts of India such as Madras, 
Bengal and Bombay, Western education had made giant 
strides, and had, all unperceived at first, fundamentally 
altered the bases of British rule in India, even by 1908. 
It is true that the majority of the people of India are to 
this day uneducated and illiterate, but the reason for this 
is to be sought in the circumstances detailed above, in 
the social structure of the country (which, for example, 
makes it virtually impossible for the unmarried woman, 


The Morley-Minto Reforms 

the keystone of elementary education elsewhere, to take 
up work as a primary school teacher, even in her own 
village), and in sheer geography, which puts an appre- 
ciable proportion of the whole child population of India 
physically beyond the reach of organized State education. 

But for over a hundred years large and ever-increasing 
numbers of Indians have had access to Western education 
from the primary to the university stages, and of these 
Indians the solid core has always been provided by the 
literary castes of Hindus, among whom learning has been 
not only traditional but a monopoly. To the new educa- 
tion they brought minds of the first quality, supremely 
well-fitted to acquire and use all that their Western 
teachers could expound to them. Mohammedans and 
others were slow to start in the educational race, and for 
that reason higher education is far more widely spread 
among the literary castes of the Hindus than among any 
others of their fellow-countrymen. In India as elsewhere, 
higher education is the passport to Government employ- 
ment, the professions, political competence and power, 
and, in a word, to controlling influence in the national 
life. This is why Hindus occupy the more desirable posts 
in these various sides of national activity, in excess even 
of what their great numerical superiority may fairly 
warrant. This, also, is the reason why the nationalist 
political movement in India was started, and has always 
been controlled, by Hindus, who have furnished the vastly 
preponderating part of the Indian National Congress 
in which the movement is embodied. 

For higher education in India means higher education 
in English, and English as the famous Bengali Vice- 
Chancellor of Calcutta University, the late Sir Ashutosh 
Mukerjee, said before the Calcutta University Commis- 
sion of 1915 is the language of freedom. With the know- 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

ledge of English, the golden store of English literature 
and the rich experience of the British way of freedom 
and democracy now lay at the disposal of Indian students, 
and the impact of that spiritual onslaught on Indian 
minds is written more and more clearly and largely in 
the thoughts and actions of Indians themselves with 
every decade that passes. Indeed, as the unbiased student 
examines the history of India from 1858 onwards, when 
Calcutta University was founded amid the passions and 
dangers of the Mutiny, he realizes that education in 
English has been the chief creative force in Indian 
nationality, and also that without English there could 
never have been any all-India nationalist movement or, 
strange as it may seem, any conception even of an Indian 
nation. Even in Europe the conception of nationality, as 
we know it to-day, is a growth of comparatively recent 
times, and in India it is completely absent until it was 
transplanted thither from its Western home. 

The leading authority on the history of Indian educa- 
tion both indigenous and Western is Sir Philip Hartog, 
who has uncovered its story, first by the work of his 
educational committee which was set up in connection 
with the Simon Commission, and later by his brilliant 
monograph for the University of London Institute of 
Education, published in 1939. He shows how the in- 
digenous systems of education in India, whether Hindu 
or Mohammedan, based as they were on the classical 
languages of Sanskrit for the Hindus and Arabic and 
Persian for the Mohammedans, were primarily religious 
in objective and had no concern with secular learning. 
In any case it was impossible, for obvious reasons, that 
these languages should give access to the secular, and 
especially to the scientific, knowledge of the world which 
bad made such prodigious advances' since the religious 


The Morley-Minto Reforms 

books of the two faiths were written. With these books 
the Hindu and Mohammedan teachers of the pre-British 
era were content. To apply the famous dictum of the 
destroyer of the Alexandrine Library, if any later dis- 
coveries agreed with the sacred volumes, they were 
unnecessary ; if they disagreed, they were erroneous and 
must be disregarded. 

But the English language was the key to the storehouse 
of all the scientific learning of the West, as well as to the 
spiritual treasures of human freedom, and, in order merely 
to continue to live in a world inhabited by men who 
wielded the almost fantastic powers conferred by scientific 
knowledge, Indians had perforce to acquire this know- 
ledge and use it, thereby themselves speeding up the 
transformation of the conditions of their lives, and, above 
all, remoulding their ideas concerning their own rela- 
tionship to modern knowledge and their estimates of their 
own personal and communal objectives and powers. 

And there was yet another creative role for the English 
language to play in India. It was the only possible 
common language for the whole country. This is not the 
place to discuss the linguistic fragmentation of India 
whose different parts have tongues not only differing 
from each other as English differs from Spanish, but 
differing from each other as English and Spanish, which 
are Indo-European languages, differ from Arabic, which 
is Semitic, or Chinese, which is Mongolian. In a sentence, 
the ethnic history and structure of India are paralleled 
by its linguistic structure, which is built from the quarries 
of a number of the major families of human speech. 
Moreover, to these different languages in India there 
now accrues a thick and ancient growth of tradition and 
passion, such as may be so clearly perceived in the fierce 
controversies which have raged around the question of 

33 c 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

extending the Hindi and Urdu languages typical Hindu 
and Mohammedan tongues which impose rigid barriers 
to their spread. But English was different. For purposes 
of education, and indeed of life in general, in the modern 
world, all educated Indians had to learn it, and so, at 
a stroke, India acquired what she had never had before, 
a common language, adequate for all purposes, and 
increasingly necessary as the country progressed in every 
way. From end to end of the country Indians could 
communicate with each other, and for no purpose was 
this more important and appropriate than for politics. 
Besides being the vehicle for political discussion, English 
was the very fount and source of all the ideals which 
Indian politicians sought to attain. 

At the end of the nineteenth century, and in the first 
four or five years of the twentieth, Lord Curzon gave an 
impressive demonstration of what could be achieved by 
a paternal, non-democratic administration pledged to the 
two ideals of efficiency and public service. At that time 
it looked as though the bureaucratic system of govern- 
ment in India would persist for an indefinite period, but, 
it should be noticed, it was one of the most effective 
from the purely administrative point of view of all 
Lord Curzon's reforms which started that phase of the 
modern Indian nationalist movement which we know 
to-day. The reform in question was the separation of 
Eastern Bengal and Assam from the old Bengal Presi- 
dency as a separate administrative province. Bengalis 
saw in it an attempt to weaken the political power of 
the most active province, politically, in India, whilst 
Hindus in general saw in it an attempt to appease 
Mohammedans and increase their political power by 
creating a new province in which the deciding voice 
would be that of the Mohammedan community. The 


The Morley-Minto Reforms 

forces released by the "Bengal Partition" agitation were 
never again imprisoned, but grew in strength and in- 
creased their objectives with every decade that passed. 
Lord Curzon's Viceroyalty was, in short, a majestic 
illustration of the fact that half a century of education in 
English had produced the effects we have just been 

Therefore, when the return of a strong Liberal Govern- 
ment to power in England after many years out of office 
provided an occasion for a reconsideration of the Indian 
Constitution, within a year or two of Lord Curzon's 
partition of Bengal, it was inevitable that something of 
these developments should be written into the new 
Constitution. Both Lord Morley, the Secretary of State 
for India, and Lord Minto, the Viceroy, found themselves 
in full agreement as to the desirability of some further 
political advances. Naturally their views differed from 
each other in many details, but in the end they reached 
a measure of agreement which is found incorporated in 
the Morley-Minto reforms. 

These represented a considerable advance in the exist- 
ing systems, an advance which is to be looked for not 
only in the machinery of the Central and Provincial 
Legislatures, but also in the spirit in which the changes 
were made. Thus, in enlarging the size of the Provincial 
Legislative Councils up to a maximum of fifty additional 
members in the larger provinces and thirty in the smaller 
Parliament once and for all abrogated the principle 
of an official majority in these councils. Henceforth, 
non-officials would be in the majority. Moreover, the 
additional non-official members added to the Provincial 
Councils by the reforms were to be elected by such 
bodies as groups o local self-governing authorities, trade 
associations, universities or landholders. It is true that 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

such bodies as these might normally be of a conservative 
temperament, but it is far from true that they might 
normally be expected to support the Provincial Govern- 
ment through thick and thin. By thus extending the 
operation of the principle of election, and by surrendering 
nominated majorities in the Provincial Councils, Parlia- 
ment, of set determination, took India a definite step 
along her road towards democratic government. In one 
province, Bengal, the majority of the Legislative Council 
was to consist henceforth of elected members. Thus the 
small, mostly nominated bodies set up by the Indian 
Councils Act of 1892 were turned into bodies large 
enough and representative enough to bring real interest 
and genuine political views and controversies into pro- 
vincial administration. Moreover, greater powers of 
criticism and advice were given to the new Councils, and 
these powers were used with vigour on many occasions, 
notably in Bengal. Resolutions could be moved in the 
Councils and later, in connection with the 1919 reforms, 
we shall see the importance of resolutions points of 
order could be raised, and votes taken. The Indian Press, 
which was already strong and independent, began to 
take an interest in the doings of the Provincial Councils, 
and the publicity given to their doings tended to put 
the members on their mettle. Lastly, the important 
change was made of introducing Indians into the Pro- 
vincial Executive Councils in the provinces where such 
bodies existed. By this change, Indians for the first time 
became part of the Provincial Government itself. 

In the Central Legislative Council the changes were 
not so important. The official majority remained, but the 
principle of election of non-official members was extended. 
The most important change at the centre was that whereby 
for the first time as in the provinces Indians were 


The Morley-Minto Reforms 

admitted to the Executive Council, the Cabinet of India. 
Lord Morley took pains to defend this limitation of 
progress at the centre by explaining that in his opinion 
India was not yet ready for the control of executive 
functions by the Legislature, and, indeed, he declared 
openly that "if it could be said that this chapter of 
reforms led directly or indirectly to the establishment of 
a parliamentary system in India, I, for one, would have 
nothing at all to do with it." In spite of this, the Morley- 
Minto reforms were a definite and important step towards 
the goal which Lord Morley refused to visualize, and 
behind the changes for which he was responsible were 
these strong forces whose workings neither he nor any 
other man could control. In the upshot, the Morley- 
Minto reforms proved to be the bridge between the old 
paternal system of government in India and the open 
and avowed beginning of the parliamentary system made 
by the 1919 reforms. They were useful as a means for 
giving expression particularly in the Central Legislative 
Council to the ideas and aspirations of the Indian 
nationalist movement, and for giving scope for further 
growth to those principles which had already been intro- 
duced into the system of government in India and are 
at the base of every form of modern democracy. 

But the Morley-Minto reforms were of first-class impor- 
tance in the development of Indian politics for another 
reason. They introduced the system of "communal repre- 
sentation," that is, the system whereby Mohammedans 
vote in Mohammedan constituencies for Mohammedan 
candidates, and Hindus for Hindu candidates in their 
constituencies. This principle was written into the new 
Constitution against the bitter opposition of Lord Morley, 
but he was^ met by greater determination from the side 
of the Indian Mdhammedans, who regarded the com- 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

munal electorate as their prime safeguard against being 
swamped by the numerically superior Hindus in general 
constituencies. Since 1908, as the experience of the Simon 
Commission and the Round Table Conference and its 
sequelae have shown, Mohammedan insistence on this 
safeguard has grown stronger as the years have passed. 

Even had the war not come in 1914, it is not likely 
that the system of government set up by the Morley- 
Minto reforms would have remained very long unchanged. 
Everything that had happened in India since the middle 
of the nineteenth century had made it increasingly certain 
that India must, sooner or later, tread the same political 
path as the British Dominions had trodden. The war did 
no more than speed up the pace of advance. 


The War, 1914-1918 

BETWEEN 1908 and 1914 the growth of political opinion 
and political education in India was steady. The organi- 
zation of the All India National Congress became more 
effective and ubiquitous and to counter it was the growing 
strength of organized Mohammedan opinion. Looking 
back on the Morley-Minto Reforms we see now that 
the stand made by the Mohammedans when the Morley- 
Minto Act was being shaped was a portent of great 
importance. To Lord Morley's great distress, he found 
that as the negotiations between himself and the Viceroy, 
Lord Minto, proceeded, Mohammedan opinion became 
more and more stubbornly set in its determination 
to insist on its own communal representation in the 
new legislative bodies, and nothing that Lord Morley 
could do was able to make any impression on the Mo- 
hammedans, and so communal representation became 
a feature of the Indian Constitution which has lasted 
to this day. In other ways, too, Mohammedans in 
India gave evidence that they were experiencing a 
communal awakening. Their great leader of an earlier 
generation, Sir Saiyid Ahmad, had roused them to a 
sense of their educational and economic shortcomings 
and disabilities, and now they were alive to their political 
disabilities also, and so we see political life in India 
quickening in various directions during these years. 
On the extreme lefj; of the All-India National Congress 
and out beyond it, there was a steady growth of extremism, 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

notably in Bengal, which is so well described in Sir Valen- 
tine Shirol's once famous book, Indian Unrest. This 
movement was definitely a movement of India for the 
Indians actually India for the Hindus, and it was 
countered by a growing solidarity and determination of 
Mohammedan India to safeguard its own position. The 
visit of King George and Queen Mary to India in the 
winter of 1911 led to an astonishing burst of loyal enthu- 
siasm which did much to stabilize general political 
opinion in India, to forge anew the ties between the 
Indian peoples and the Crown, and to discredit the 
extremists who were talking of complete independence 
for India. Nevertheless revolution actively persisted, and 
was marked by its most extreme act in those pre-war 
years, the attempted assassination of the Viceroy, Lord 
Harding, in Delhi in December 1912. 

Then came the war. The first reaction to this tremen- 
dous event in India was a spontaneous rally to Great 
Britain's cause. The men of the fighting races flocked to 
the colours, and all sections of Indian opinion, except the 
most extreme, at any rate in the earlier stages of the war, 
realized that the German threat of world domination 
was as much a menace to India as to any other country 
of the British Empire. The heroism of the Indian 
soldiers on so many of the battle-fronts of that widespread 
war, and the efforts and sacrifices called for from many 
sections of the Indian peoples themselveSj'led inevitably 
to a revival of ideals of more extensive self-government 
for India, and gave undoubted strength to the arguments 
by which these ideals were supported. Several schemes 
for political advance began to be put forward, the most 
important of all being one jointly prepared in 1916 by the 
Moslem League and the All-India Rational Congress. 
This scheme, in essence, was the development of the 


The War, 1914- igi 8 

Morley-Minto Reforms to their logical conclusions, and 
only its essential implication need be mentioned here. 
The Legislative and Executive would have derived their 
powers from, and been responsible to, different authorities 
the one to an Indian electorate, the other to Parliament 
in London. Of course, the two mandates would have 
clashed sooner or later, and deadlock would have ensued. 
This is the system which has broken down in every one 
of the British Colonies where it has been tried, and the 
British Islands themselves suffered bitterly from just such 
a system in the eighteenth century when the short-lived 
Irish Constitution of 1782 broke down in the chaos and 
bloodshed of 1798. 

It was clear that something different from an extension 
of the Morley-Minto Reforms had to be conceived, and 
Mr. Montagu, Secretary of State for India, gave un- 
qualified expression to this view in the declaration 
which he made in Parliament in October 1917. The gist 
of his statement was that the goal of India's political 
progress was responsible self-government, to be attained 
by progressive stages. The magic words, "responsible 
government," the very words from which such stalwart 
democrats as Mr. Gladstone and Lord Morley had shrunk, 
and indeed had openly disclaimed, ended a binding 
declaration of policy made on behalf of His Majesty's 

As the war proceeded and the calls on India became 
more intense it was inevitable that Indian Nationalist 
opinion should once again make itself heard. Economi- 
cally, India was not doing badly out of the war. There 
was a full demand for everything that she could produce, 
whether in the form of primary or of secondary products, 
and all these realized good prices. The manufacturing 
industries of the country were being fostered and developed 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

by the Government as well as by private capital, and there 
was a certain increase in the general well-being of the 
people. Nevertheless, war taxation and war conditions 
inflicted inevitable hardships, and where there were 
large concentrations of industrial workers there were 
potential sources of discontent. In those days there was 
virtually no trade union legislation or organization, and 
the mushroom agitator thus had full opportunity for 
exercising his peculiar talents. With the agricultural 
masses, a very dangerous development was the disap- 
pearance of the silver rupee and the high price of silver 
bullion, which, of course, affected the age-old hoarding 
habits of the countryside very strongly. There was thus a 
good deal of floating discontent towards the end of the 
war, and in India, as elsewhere, the all-pervading war 
weariness affected the minds of the people and made them 
an easy prey to the political agitator, particularly the 
one who promised a new and better world if only Indians 
could be left to their own devices and their own self- 

Mr. Montagu himself paid a visit to India to study the 
political situation at first-hand, and to get what ideas he 
could on the subject of the actual wishes and demands of 
the Indian political leaders as well as of the Indian 
Government. Out of the declaration of 1917 and of the 
ceaseless political thinking and argument in India and 
Great Britain emerged the Government of India Act of 


It is safe to say that between August 1917 and De- 
cember 1919 when the Government of India Act was 
passed, the principles which were finally embodied in the 
Act were subject to such a rain of criticism, both hostile 
and friendly, ignorant and learned, that to find a precedent 
for the amount of interest and the depth of feeling dis- 


The War, 

played it is necessary to go back to the days of the first 
Irish Home Rule Bill, or the stormy days which preceded 
the Reform Act of 1832. The reason for this great interest 
on both sides is obvious. The British Parliament and 
people felt that in conceding the principle that the goal 
of Indian political progress was responsible self-govern- 
ment and in delegating to the control of popularly 
elected legislatures some of the most important depart- 
ments of administration in the Provincial Government, 
Great Britain and India were taking a leap in the dark. 
Indian political leaders, on the other hand, naturally 
felt that the principle should have been stated more 
clearly and whole-heartedly, and should have been 
applied more generously. Moreover, the international 
status of India had been fundamentally affected by her 
position as one of the signatories of the Treaty of Versailles 
and as an original member in her own right of the League 
of Nations. Indians could argue with force and much 
justification that this position on the international stage 
was inconsistent with a position of subjection on the 
smaller stage of the British Empire. 

But in 1919, there were other than purely political 
considerations involved. The aftermath of the war had 
shown itself in both widespread internal unrest and in a 
serious threat to India's safety from outside. Internally, 
the inevitable post-war difficulties and mal-adjustments 
had the effect of giving greatly increased strength to the 
underworld revolutionary movement which had grown 
with dangerous speed during the last months of the war. 
This underworld movement may be traced to a definite 
beginning in 1908 when the Bengal revolutionaries used, 
in a murderous outrage, bombs which had been manu- 
factured on principles learnt in anarchist organizations 
in Europe. The murder of Sir William Curzon Wyllie, 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

by a Punjabi student, in London in 1909 brought home 
to the British people with sudden and startling clearness 
the existence and implications of the movement, which 
during the war of 1914-1918 was used by the Germans 
as an accessory to their war effort. The entry of Turkey 
into the war against the Allies gave some scope for 
agitation on the North- West Frontier and among Indian 
Mohammedans generally, whilst a serious situation was 
created in the Punjab by the return of thousands of 
Sikhs from Canada, the United States, and China and 
Japan. Most of these men were innocent of revolutionary 
crime, but large numbers were quite definitely agents of 
the Germans and of the Indian revolutionary organiza- 
tions outside India, notably of the notorious "Ghadr" 
or "Mutiny" party, which was strongly entrenched in 
the United States of America. Many violent crimes were 
committed by these and other revolutionaries and large 
numbers of modern firearms were smuggled into India. 
The threat from the extremists was, in fact, out of all 
proportion to their numbers. 

Then, too, in March 1919, Mr. Gandhi ordered the first 
general strike hartal as it came to be widely known and 
this led in Delhi to a clash with the authorities and a 
number of deaths. A second hartal was ordered for 
April 6th, and in continuance of this, Mr. Gandhi 
tried to enter the Punjab on April gth. He was turned 
back and ordered to return to Bombay. The news 
flew through the Punjab that he had been arrested, 
and at once a wave of mass violence swept over parts 
of the Punjab and the Bombay Presidency. Serious riots 
occurred, Europeans were murdered five of them 
in Amritsar in the Punjab and communications of 
all sorts were destroyed. The general unrest was in- 
creased by the coincidence with Mr. Gandhi's activities 


The War, 1914-1918 

of special legislation which the Government of India 
had found it necessary to introduce into the central 

In 1917, a Committee, under the Chairmanship of an 
English judge, Mr. Justice Rowlatt, had been appointed 
to advise on the steps to be taken to deal with revolu- 
tionary agitation. The Committee reported in 1918, 
and, early in 1919, the Government of India introduced 
certain Bills into the Legislature which had been framed 
in accordance with the Rowlatt Report. These provided , 
no more than the usual administrative precautions 
which are invariably taken by a Government at such 
crises. But an Eastern country like India is the very home 
of rumour, and with the passing of the Rowlatt Bills 
the most extraordinary caricatures of their contents 
gained publicity, chief among these being stories to the 
effect that marriage and funeral processions would now 
become unlawful assemblies and so liable to forcible 
dispersal by the military or police. The effect of such 
rumours was inflammatory to a high degree, and 
strengthened the wave of unrest and violence which, as 
we have seen, was sweeping over the country and causing 
the murder of a number of isolated Europeans. The trouble 
took on a violent form in Amritsar, an important com- 
mercial town in the Punjab and the headquarters of the 
Sikh community, and it was here that the deplorable 
episode of the Jallianwala Bagh occurred in which a 
large number of rioters were killed by machine-gun fire. 
This affair gave a new edge to nationalist agitation and 
helped to precipitate the widespread and long-drawn-out 
Non-Co-operation movement. But the tragedy proved to 
be the culminating point of the immediate post-war 
disturbances, for thereafter the forces of law and order 
were able to prevent any substantial political disturbance 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

until the start of the Non-Co-operation and Khilafat 
movements of the next year. 

But these disturbances inside India produced a most 
dangerous reflex on her North- West border, which, from 
time immemorial, had been the highway for the invasion 
of the country. The Amir of Afghanistan, Habibullah 
Khan, a firm and loyal friend of the British, was murdered 
early in 1919, and his successor's first act was to invade 
India. The invasion was quickly repelled, but it was a 
reminder, to British and Indians alike, of the vital need 
for keeping the strength of the Central Government of 
India intact. 


The 1919 Reforms 

CLEARLY, in view of these very untoward conditions both 
inside India and on her frontiers, the new Constitution 
had to retain strong powers for internal and external 
defence in the hands of the Central Government. In 
the provinces the device of "dyarchy" was introduced; 
whilst at the centre, the main reforms consisted of 
increasing the numbers of the Legislature, widening the 
franchise, giving the popularly elected members a sub- 
stantial majority over the official and nominated members 
in the Legislative Assembly which is the "House of 
Commons" of India, the Council of State being the upper 
house and immensely increasing the powers of members 
of the Legislature to criticize, aid, or obstruct, and, 
generally, to influence the policy of the Government. 

By the 1919 Act the whole sphere of Government was 
divided into two parts the Central and Provincial Sub- 
jects. The provincial subjects were entrusted to the new 
reformed Provincial Governments and included practically 
all the activities of government which touch the daily 
lives of men and women such subjects as education, 
health, law and order, public works, irrigation, local 
self-government, industrial development, and many 
others. The Central Government retained these subjects 
which are the care of central governments the world over 
defence, customs, criminal law, foreign relations, 
and so on. The provincial subjects were further divided 
into "Reserved" and "Transferred 5 * subjects. The reserved 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

subjects, the chief of which were police and finance, were 
administered by the Provincial Governor and his Exe- 
cutive Councillors, who were two or more in number and 
were nominated by the Crown. The transferred subjects 
were administered by the Governor and his Ministers, 
who were chosen from among the elected members of 
the Provincial Legislature, which was a single-house 
legislature known as the Provincial Council, elected on 
a still broader franchise than the central Legislative 
Assembly. The transferred subjects included all the so- 
called "nation-building" departments, that is, education, 
health, local self-government, agriculture, industrial 
development and others. For the administration of these 
transferred subjects, the Ministers were responsible to the 
Provincial Councils and stood or fell by the latter's votes. 
It will be seen from the above that the Provincial 
Government fell into two distinct parts : the Governor and 
his Executive Councillors, or the Governor in Council, and 
the Governor and his Ministers. The Governor in Council 
was not responsible to the Provincial Legislature for his 
acts. He was responsible to the British Parliament via the 
Government of India and the Secretary of State for India. 
The Governor acting with his Ministers was responsible 
to the Provincial Legislature, and it is this division of 
the fabric of the Provincial Government into two parts 
which is called "dyarchy." Its drawbacks are obvious to any 
student of politics, and, as a matter of fact, dyarchy 
functioned with continual difficulty in Bengal and the 
Central Provinces, whilst it worked with reasonable ease 
and efficiency in several other provinces. From the first, 
however, some Governors tacitly treated their Executive 
Councillors and Ministers as a unitary government and 
held joint meetings of Councillors and Ministers. The 
real justification of dyarchy is that it was found, after the 


The 7919 Reforms 

most intensive study by British and Indian politicians con- 
cerned, to be the only way in which Indians could gain 
continuous practical experience of the handling of actual 
administration of governmental power, and the Simon 
Commission later on judged that it had, on the whole, 
discharged the function for which it was designed. 

There is one other important aspect of the Montagu- 
Chelmsford Reforms to be noted here, namely, their 
financial provisions. Before 1919, the revenues of the 
provinces were derived almost entirely from sources which 
they shared with the Central Government. The Reforms, 
however, altered all that and handed over to the provinces 
certain heads of revenue for their exclusive enjoyment. In 
practice, this meant that the Government of India would 
lose heavily, and, therefore, it was decided to levy annual 
contributions, varying according to their wealth, from the 
different provinces. A committee was set up under the 
Chairmanship of Lord Meston to allocate the contribu- 
tions and the subsequent arrangement became known as 
the Meston Award. Naturally, this arrangement was 
highly unpopular with the provinces, and especially with 
the new Ministers who wanted all the money they could 
get for their "nation-building " departments, and the 
abrogation of the Provincial Contributions was, from the 
start, a prime objective of both the Central and Provin- 
cial Governments. 

The new era in Indian Government and in the relations 
between India and Great Britain opened formally in 
February 1921, when the Duke of Connaught inaugurated 
the reforms in Delhi. The first General Elections for the 
new Legislatures had been held in the previous Novem- 
ber, and the All-India Congress Party had boycotted 
them. The. personnel of the Central and Provincial 
Legislatures was, therefore, of the Liberal or "Moderate" 

49 * 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

section of thought on the whole, and the absence of the 
more extreme Congressmen undoubtedly made for the 
smoother and more peaceful transaction of business. 
Nevertheless, the absence of representatives of the strongest, 
best-organized, and most popular party in the country 
prevented the new Central Legislature from developing 
into a true national council, as had been hoped. Further, 
it was partly responsible for the failure of the Montagu- 
Chelmsford Reforms to develop a true party system. No 
such system ever developed at the Centre, whilst in the 
provinces, the nearest approach to true political parties 
came in the Punjab and in the Madras Presidency. In 
the former, a genuine cleavage between urban and 
rural interests led to the rise of a country party which 
included representatives of all communities, including 
the domiciled European community. But the fierce inter- 
communal strife of 1924 and onwards put an end to this 
promising experiment. In Madras, too, the Justice, or 
Non-Brahmin Party looked for a while as though it would 
become a real radical party representative of the economic 
and social claims of the "have-nots" of all communities 
and interests. Communal considerations, however, proved 
too strong in the end, and the party came to represent 
mainly the claims of the non-Brahmin Hindus. In the 
Punjab, of course, the split came along the Hindu-Mo- 
hammedan line of cleavage, with the Sikh Community as 
a third disturbing element, with its own particular claims 
and grievances. Elsewhere, the divisions of opinion were 
into groups of more or less unstable cohesion and some- 
what nebulous differences of policy. 

The Act of 1 9 1 9 is a document of high interest to students 
of British Imperial history, for it crystallized the long 
experience in the process of the devolution of governing 
powers which Parliament had gained since the Canada 


The 79/9 Reforms 

Act of 1791. There were reminiscences of several of the 
old Colonial Constitutional Acts in the Government of 
India Act of 1919. The composition of the Legislative 
Assembly and the Provincial Councils reminded us, for 
example, of the introduction of the principle of respon- 
sible government into New South Wales in 1842 in the 
form of a council one-third nominated and two-thirds 
elected. Certain of the provisions of the Act recalled 
Canadian and, still more, South African constitutional 

It must be remembered that responsible government 
had never been specifically established in any of the 
Dominion Constitutions. Its introduction had been due 
to constitutional practices and usages based on those in 
force in the mother country. In Canada, after the Act 
of 1840, responsible government developed by the logic 
of events and the wisdom of Lord Elgin, and its rise in 
New Zealand after the Act of 1852 was just as striking 
an example of the apparently (but not really) haphazard 
way in which great constitutional changes are made 
by English peoples. And so it was meant to be in India. 
Nothing but harm could have come from trying to set 
down in precise language in a formal statute a system 
so subtle and complicated as responsible government, 
which indeed had assumed a different shape in each 
separate British dominion. The Federal Government of 
Australia was on a different model from the Canadian 
federation, and both the Australian and Canadian 
systems of government differed radically from that of 
South Africa. If the British system of responsible govern- 
ment had experienced such immense changes in being 
transplanted to the soil of Britain's own dominions, we 
should have expected changes of at least equal magnitude 
after its naturalization in the alien civilization of India, 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

and the outstanding merit of the 1919 Act, and the politi- 
cal practice based thereon, was that these changes could 
flow naturally as conditions and experience showed them 
to be necessary and appropriate. 

The 1919 reforms gave rise to something like the 
beginning of a federal system for India, in the separation 
of the spheres of the Provincial and Central Governments. 
In certain subjects of government, including those of the 
highest importance for the moral and material uplift of 
their peoples, the provinces were now, for all practical 
purposes, masters in their own house. To the Central 
Government was left Imperial business, external defence, 
and such subjects as criminal law, customs duties, currency 
and the like, which from their character were incapable 
of being developed on any authority smaller than the 
national authority. The Central Government was the 
co-ordinating and safeguarding power over all India and 
existing conditions, as we have seen, prevented any 
actual delegation of responsibility to the Central Legis- 
lature. Nevertheless, the latter had been taken into 
partnership in the Government of India, and in many 
ways had the reality of power without its outward form. 

In the provinces many important subjects of govern- 
ment, as we have already seen, had been made over bodily 
to the control of the legislatures acting through Ministers. 
Local self-government, practically all education, hygiene, 
agriculture, and other vitally important subjects were 
now in the hands of elected Indian non-officials. Also, 
the so-called "reserved" subjects could not, from the 
nature of things, be altogether reserved from the influence, 
more or less direct, according to circumstances, of the 
Provincial Legislatures. The whole spirit of the reforms 
and the logic of events must inevitably have forced the 
Executives in the provinces and the Central Government 


The 7979 Reforms 

to look to the Legislatures for sanction and support for 
their actions, to Legislatures, that is, which all had an 
elected majority and in which the Government was face 
to face with Indian opinion and could not shirk the issue. 

Lastly, Indians had been admitted to the Central and 
Provincial Executive Councils in every province, and were 
thus part of the very mainspring of the administration. 

What were the true tasks before these Legislatures? 
In the first place let it be said definitely that they were 
not concerned with sweeping and spectacular constitu- 
tional changes. A certain amount of adjustment there 
had to be. The powers of the two houses of the Central 
Legislature had to be accurately delimitated as their 
experience grew. The scope of the responsible half of the 
Provincial Governments would advance here and recede 
there according to the play of events. There would be 
continual adjustments between the Central and Pro- 
vincial Governments and so on. But all these were nothing 
more than the growth of the new Constitution according 
to its designers' wishes and were not to be confused with the 
big questions of politics around which the main battles 
had raged. Responsible government and all that -it 
included were acknowledged by all parties to be the 
legitimate goal of Indian aspiration. The problem, as 
we have seen, was one of gradually adapting the insti- 
tutions of responsible government to the conditions of 
India, above all, to the dominating condition of India's 
disunity at that time. 

There then was the immediate field of work for Indian 
Legislatures ... to bring into existence conditions which 
favoured the unity in aim and sentiment of the different 
communities, castes, tribes and divisions of India. There 
were many sides from which this problem of India's unity 
could be attacked by her own sons, and comparatively 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

very little which could be done by an alien Government. 
The strong hand of British rule could ensure that the 
peace was kept throughout the land, but at the best it 
could only maintain a mechanical unity. Real fusion had 
to be of the people themselves and in the conditions set 
up by the Reforms they had their opportunity at last. 

But the 1919 Reforms still left many problems to be 
solved. The map of India would have to be partly redrawn. 
The existing provinces were mainly haphazard divisions 
whose reason for existence was administrative conveni- 
ence. But there were strong forces of racial sentiment 
and language which were likely in the future to demand 
their realignment, a process allowed for in the 1919 Act. 
There was, again, the thorny problem of federal taxation 
which had to be solved ; the replacement of communal 
by some other form of representation could only be effected 
by the free choice of those concerned, and there were 
powerful forces hostile to democracy which had to be 
curbed. The existing state of the relations between the 
Hindu and Mohammedan communities struck at the 
very heart of Indian unity, and anxious thought and work 
were called for in that respect. Those were problems 
already knocking at the doors of the Indian Legislatures. 

A wise agricultural and local self-government policy 
in the provinces, a policy directed to harmonizing the 
conflicting elements in the atoms of the social structure, 
in freeing the peasant from debt, in cleansing the villages 
and lifting the scourge of preventable diseases, in raising 
the status of the depressed classes and in improving the 
lot of women, could exercise an immense influence for 
good. The power to do all this was in the hands of the 
Provincial Legislatures, and it was the power to remove 
much that embittered communal relations and kept 
immense numbers of women and low-caste men for all 


The 79/9 Reforms 

practical purposes out of the body politic. The Provincial 
Legislatures had the power then to educate children and 
to make citizens of them. They could build roads to link 
hamlets with market towns and enable produce to be 
dragged economically to market in carts instead of being 
carried on the heads of men and boys. Every measure 
by which they raised the economic status of their peasants 
was a work of quite incalculable value in destroying the 
forces which made for disunion between class and class 
and between one community and another. 

The Central Legislature could tackle the problem of 
India's growing industrialization. It could see that 
India profited by the hard experience of England. It 
could initiate and carry social legislation, which the Eng- 
lish officials could do only with difficulty and perhaps 
against the deadweight of unreasoning prejudice. There 
were customs which would have to be abolished, barriers 
which would have to be broken down, privileges of caste 
and position which would have to go before India could 
be a nation. A sound and real public opinion had to be 
formed, and its baser elements the reptile Press and 
merely communal and separatist agitation had to be 
purged, work again for the people themselves by means 
of their representatives. That was what was necessary. 



The Working of the 1919 

THE year 1919 was a great turning point for India in 
more than the strictly political sphere. The war of 1914- 
1918 was one of those great historical events which not 
only vastly accelerate the speed of change and develop- 
ment, but produce also a change in the organization and 
structure of the subject of such change and development. 
Hundreds of thousands of Indians had served on foreign 
battlefields from France to China, and India herself had 
been in the forefront of the world struggle as a combatant 
of the first rank and magnitude. Thus she had been 
open to all the emotions and influences, and the strains 
and stresses both spiritual and material which beset a 
country at war. In a thousand subtle and imperceptible 
ways the minds of her people had been influenced and 
their ideas changed, broadened, and turned into new 
channels and directed towards new objectives. The fierce 
light of war had shone on every part of her economic 
equipment and the effort of war had, within five years, 
enlarged and improved this to a greater extent perhaps 
than the previous quarter of a century had done. In a 
word, India had been brought by the war into the main 
stream of the world's life and she could never again slip 
into a backwater. This meant that every detail of her 
organization, political, economic, and social, had to be 
overhauled and, as resources and human capabilities 


The Working of the 79/9 Reforms 

permitted, brought abreast of the modern conditions and 
leading international position in which she would find 
herself henceforth. 

Nothing less than this was the task which faced the 
Government of India and the leaders of the Indian peoples 
at the end of the Great War, and the new system of 
government contained in the 1919 Act could at any rate 
serve as a starting-point for this great departure. From 
the Indian point of view, one of the rules for the working 
of the new Legislatures was of especial importance. This 
was the rule relating to the moving of Resolutions by 
members of the Central and Provincial Legislatures. The 
Resolution in India is like the Motion of a private member 
of Parliament, only, in India, there is much more oppor- 
tunity for a private member to move a Resolution and 
have it carried to a decision one way or other than there 
is for the corresponding procedure in Parliament. The 
Resolution, therefore, has proved to be an excellent 
means for giving expression to the needs and aspirations 
of all shades of political thought represented in the Indian 
Legislatures, and the Governments too, both Central and 
Provincial, have found Resolutions natural ways of 
hammering out new policy, for they are an excellent 
instrument for bringing the force of public opinion to 
bear on Government measures and policy, and, also, for 
indicating fairly exactly the strength of that opinion in 
any particular matter. 

Between 1921 and the meeting of the Round Table 
Conference in London in 1930, the main battle between 
the Government of India and their chief opposition the 
Congress Party the main constitutional and political 
battle, that is, was fought out in the Legislative Assembly 
by way of Resolutions moved by leading members of the 
Congress Party. Indeed, the one important enquiry into 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

the working of the 1919 Act which was undertaken before 
the statutory enquiry by the Simon Commission, was 
that carried out by a Committee appointed by the 
Viceroy, Lord Reading, in 1924, and this was the direct 
consequence of a resolution moved by Pandit Motilal 
Nehru, the leader of the Congress Party, in the Legislative 
Assembly, for, it should be noted, the Congress Party 
decided to stand for election to the Legislature at the 
second general elections which were held in November 


Similarly, in the very important sphere of law, par- 
ticularly criminal law, certain anomalies, and, even, 
injustices which had come down as a survival from the 
old days of purely autocratic government, formed the 
subject of Resolutions and were remedied by legislation. 
A great overhaul of the Indian legal system was set on 
foot by the new Legislatures, and the great Civil and 
Criminal Codes were reviewed and modified where 
necessary, whilst commercial, mercantile, and other legis- 
lation governing specific interests was brought abreast 
of modern conditions. Restrictive Press Acts were attacked 
and abolished in the first session of the reformed Central 
Legislature, and even the sacrosanct subject of Army 
administration was brought under critical and effective 
review. The scope of the Resolutions and the consequent 
influence exerted by the elected members of the Legis- 
latures widened continually ; and although many of these 
Resolutions were unreasonable, and some even vexatious 
and malicious, nevertheless they formed one of the most 
powerful and fruitful influences in the political education 
and development of India. 

In the economic field, the interest taken, and the pressure 
exerted, by the Legislatures, more especially, the Central 
Legislature, were continuous and cumulative. Already, 


The Working of the 79/9 Reforms 

in the crucial field of tariff-making, a convention of the 
highest importance was established on the inauguration 
of the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. This Convention 
was to the effect that there should be no intervention by 
the British Government and Parliament in Indian fiscal 
affairs when the Government of India and its Legislatures 
were in agreement with each other. It is true that this 
Convention was subject to the condition that the Secretary 
of State for India could interfere if he thought it necessary 
to do so for the purpose of "safeguarding the international 
obligations of the Empire or any fiscal arrangements 
within the Empire to which His Majesty's Government 
may be a party." In practice, however, the Convention 
was never disturbed. The Ottawa agreements of 1932 had 
to be ratified by the Indian Legislature in the first place, 
and, after having been so ratified and having remained 
in operation for some time, were abrogated by the same 
Legislature. On more than one occasion the Secretary of 
State withstood strong attempts on the part of organized 
interests in Great Britain to get him to modify the Indian 
Tariff, and, in fact, India has had, to all intents and 
purposes, complete fiscal autonomy from 1921 onwards. 

Inside the provinces, the economic equipment and 
resources of the country have steadily extended during 
the past thirty years. The last census taken in India, the 
census of 1931, classifies the vast majority of the people of 
all India as rural, and shows that about 80 per cent of the 
total population of the country still get their living 
directly from agriculture and the industries subsidiary 
to it. In the provinces, therefore, such problems as those 
of the development of scientific agriculture, agricultural 
finance, land tenure, co-operative societies, rural indebted- 
ness, and above all, in a land of capricious rainfall like 
India irrigation, are of supreme importance. One simple 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

illustration will show what progress has been made since 
the beginning of this century towards the general objective 
of the economic welfare of the masses of India, an objective 
in which all problems are but individual elements. In 
1899, a great famine ravaged parts of the country causing 
immense suffering and much loss of life. Twenty years 
later, a more serious scarcity of rain than that of 1899 led 
to a widespread failure of harvests, yet so much stronger 
was the economic system in this later crisis that the 
number of people who applied for Government relief 
was only a little over 10 per cent of the number who 
applied in 1899. And, since 1919, the situation has still 
further improved. This is not to say that the economic 
position of the masses in India is good, or, even, on the 
whole, satisfactory. But the story of economic change and 
development in India since 1908 is a record of definite 
progress, and with growing economic strength and 
security we can trace, though less easily, growth in political 
experience and competence. When we consider that 
modern scientific irrigation in India really began in 1819 
with the re-opening of the Mogul Emperor Shah Jehan's 
canal to the north of Delhi, that between 1819 and the 
passing of the 1919 Act roughly seventy-four million 
pounds had been spent, and that between 1919 and the 
beginning of the second World War well over fifty million 
pounds have been spent on irrigation, it is not difficult 
to see how quickly and radically the conditions of life for 
rural India have been improved. 

Much has been written on the connection between the 
economic prosperity and the political development of 
countries and peoples, and here it is only necessary to 
point out that the masses of the Indian peoples, like those 
of any other country, will attain political competence and 
maturity only pan passu with the building up of the 


The Working of the 79/9 Reforms 

economic foundations of their life, and that when we 
examine the economic history and conditions of India 
since 1908, we are, in fact, examining also some of the 
most important springs of her political life. It is, unfor- 
tunately, true that no very satisfactory material exists 
for any valid computation of average income per head 
in India, and the comparisons which are so often seen 
between the average income in India and the average 
income in some other countries are completely useless 
from the scientific point of view. Nevertheless, competent 
economists, whether British or Indian or foreign, whether 
officials or non-officials, all agree that during the past 
three or four decades there has been a noticeable increase 
in the average real income in India. This judgment is 
confirmed by a study of the demand for consumption 
goods in the country. In addition to increased consumption 
of essentials of food and clothing, there has been a steady 
rise in the consumption of "conventional" necessities, in 
expenditure on travel, and in the volume of savings of all 
sorts. Moreover, the steady, if slow, improvement in health, 
in infantile mortality figures, and in the expectation of life 
which has been going on throughout the present century, 
all point to the same conclusion, namely, that the economic 
and social conditions of the peoples of India should 
develop so as to guarantee solid material foundations for 
her political life and progress. To a large and increasing 
extent the amelioration of Indian economic and social 
conditions must be the work of the Provincial Legislatures 
and Governments. 

As we study the working of the Montagu-Chelmsford 
Reforms we see the Provincial Legislative Councils, through 
their Ministers, evolving policies for local self-government, 
primary and secondary education, small industries, rural 
co-operation, agricultural development, and the like. In 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

one or two provinces, notably the Punjab, we see opinion 
in the Councils divided, not by communal interests, but 
by differences of opinion of vital necessity to the agri- 
cultural masses of their provinces. Even the work of 
dyarchy itself provides us with interesting comparisons 
between one province and another, for in no two pro- 
vinces did it assume exactly the same shape, and it is 
worth while spending a few moments in examining how 
the process of delegating responsibility to the Provincial 
Legislatures which was the essence of dyarchy was 
carried out. The 1919 Act still left the Governor of the 
provinces as the master mechanic who was to keep the 
somewhat delicate machinery of dyarchy in running 
order. This did not mean that his functions were limited 
to those of a Deus ex machina. The administration of a 
province is not made up of political crises. The daily 
round comprised for the most part routine business and 
small affairs of departmental policy. In all this, the 
Governor took an active and decisive share and his wishes 
and personality entered largely into the provincial 
administration. Not only did Executive Councillors and 
Ministers bring their more important problems before 
him, but the permanent heads of departments of trans- 
ferred as well as reserved departments had regular 
access to him and acquainted him with all the affairs of 
their departments which they thought he ought to know. 
No officer of an imperial service, for example, could be 
transferred from one district or from one appointment to 
another without his consent. Quite apart, then, from his 
powers of veto and certification, the Governor was the 
real head of the provincial administration. 

But the Governor's control over his Ministers was 
different in kind from his control over his Executive 
Councillors and heads of departments. The Governor 


The Working of the 19/9 Reforms 

could direct action to be taken in regard to the adminis- 
tration of transferred departments otherwise than in 
accordance with the advice of his Ministers, but in any 
difference of opinion with the Governor the Minister 
had a very powerful weapon in his hands resignation. 
There had been much misconception of this subject of the 
Governor's control over Ministers and evidence given 
before the Muddiman Committee revealed much soreness 
on the part of the ex-Ministers with regard to it. Under 
the 1919 Act the Governor was not meant to be an 
ordinary constitutional Governor. He was in a real sense 
the head of the Government of his province and must 
have had many of the powers which in a fully responsible 
system of government would have belonged to the Prime 

Naturally, the reserved and transferred departments 
continually impinged on each other, and there was 
constant necessity for joint action between the two halves 
of the Provincial Government. This, of course, gave ample 
opportunity for the exercise of influence by Ministers 
over the administration of reserved subjects. In Madras 
and Bengal, for example, attempts were made to establish 
a practically unitary system of government, the Governor, 
Executive Councillors, and Ministers meeting together 
regularly to discuss provincial policy. In the central 
provinces all important matters of policy were discussed 
at joint meetings, whilst in the Punjab there were regular 
weekly meetings of both halves of the Provincial Govern- 
ment at which each Minister or Councillor present brought 
up questions which he thought ought to be discussed in 
common. In all these provinces it was not an uncommon 
thing, when a conflict of opinion arose, to find a Minister 
siding with $n Executive Councillor and vice versa. But, 
of course, the lack of organized and stable political parties 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

and well-defined party "platforms" made joint responsi- 
bility of the Ministers impossible, and so to that extent 
derogated from the office which Ministers might otherwise 
have exercised. The Provincial Legislatures, in the mean- 
time, certainly played their part in criticizing ministerial 
policies, and provincial Governors, on many occasions, 
deferred to the Legislatures' criticisms even of the reserved 
departments. Unfortunately, two strong influences were 
at work in provincial politics throughout the currency of 
the 1919 Reforms. These were, first, financial stringency, 
which led to very great friction of opinions between the 
transferred and reserved halves of the Provincial Govern- 
ments, since finance was a reserved subject, and Ministers 
anxious to proceed with * 'nation-building" schemes were 
often suspicious of the inability of the finance department 
to find the necessary money. The second influence referred 
to was communal antagonism. One example of how this 
antagonism vitiated provincial politics may be quoted 
from the Punjab. After the Multan riots in September 
1922, the Hindus, alarmed at their position, looked about 
for allies. Just at that time the Punjab Government intro- 
duced a Gurdwara Bill to try to settle the Akali Sikh 
movement which started as an attempt to reform the 
administration of Sikh Gurdwaras or temples. But by 
November 1922 when the Bill was introduced this move- 
ment had changed profoundly in character and had 
become a revolutionary agitation of a dangerous kind. 
The Government Bill naturally did not meet the extreme 
claims now put forward by the Akalis and most of the 
Sikh members of the Provincial Council had no intention 
of supporting it. The Hindus had previously opposed the 
Akali movement because many of the priests in charge of 
Sikh Gurdwaras were Hindus, and, in view of the 
character which the Akali movement had assumed, they 

The Working of the 79/9 Reforms 

would normally have supported this Bill. Now, however, 
they joined hands with the Sikhs and threw it out because 
they wanted Sikh support against the Mohammedans. 

Nevertheless, the Provincial Councils were able to do 
a fair amount of constructive work. Looking through the 
provincial records one sees that their activity in the 1919 
Act was devoted more to the subject of local self-govern- 
ment than to any other single item, and had centred in 
the regulation of municipalities and district boards (which 
did for rural areas what municipalities did for urban areas). 
There are seven hundred and fifty-seven municipalities 
in British India but only eighteen million out of two hun- 
dred and fifty million people live in them. When it is 
remembered that Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras alone 
held more than three million people, the average Indian 
municipality was seen to be of only moderate size. 

The general trend of provincial legislation since 1921 
has been towards the reconstitution of all these units of 
local self-government, both urban and rural, in a more 
democratic form. The franchise has been lowered and 
the number of elected members increased. Direct 
election has been introduced into the district boards, and 
everywhere there has been a steady movement towards 
the replacement of official by un-official control. This 
movement had been carried furthest in the United Pro- 
vinces where there were no official presidents of district 
boards. Before the Reforms the magistrate of the district 
was usually president of the district board. In some pro- 
vinces legislation had been undertaken to enable local 
bodies to increase their powers of taxation. In Madras, 
for example, local bodies could impose taxes on amuse- 
ments and entertainments. 

A very noteworthy feature of local self-government 
legislation since the Reforms has been its extension to 

65 E 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

the villages, where attempts have been made to invest the 
Panchayats of Committees of Elders with definite powers. 
The Punjab Panchayat Act gave the Committee powers 
to settle local disputes and to take measures for the 
sanitation of the villages. In the United Provinces a 
similar Act enabled them to deal with petty civil suits 
and to settle minor cases under the Cattle Trespass Act 
and the Village Sanitation Act. In Madras, too, the 
Panchayat system was said to be popular, whilst in other 
provinces like Bihar and Orissa and Bengal, powers had 
been given for the creation of Village Unions and the 
constitution of Union Boards on an elective basis. These 
Union Boards have functions not unlike our own Parish 
Councils and were reported to be working satisfactorily. 
The chief obstacle to the progress of this branch of legis- 
lative activity was the strong disinclination of the villagers 
to the taxation imposed by these local units. 

Much attention was devoted to education and every 
province in India introduced compulsory primary edu- 
cation in certain areas, but in view of the vast numbers 
of the population and the difficulties in the way of their 
education, which have already been noticed, many years 
must elapse before the provincial educational policies bear 
their full fruit. 

An examination of the Acts passed and resolutions 
accepted by Provincial Councils during the past five years 
revealed a striking dearth of any which bore directly on 
the economic welfare of the masses, particularly of the 
rural masses. Industrial development was a transferred 
subject, but the Central Government could exercise 
supervision over industrial affairs when this was con- 
sidered expedient. Every province had its Department of 
Industries under the control of a Minister; and in each 
one a beginning had been made in extending technical 


The Working of the 79/9 Reforms 

education and fostering new or nascent industries. This 
was really all that the provinces could do in this respect, 
since general legislation on the conditions of labour in 
factories and mines and on trade unions rested with the 
Central Government. But in agriculture, a subject over 
which the Provincial Legislatures had direct control, the 
record of these years is disappointing. The total expendi- 
ture of all provincial agricultural departments never 
exceeded about d. per acre per annum. In certain 
provinces, notably Bengal, the United Provinces, and 
Bihar and Orissa, attempts had been made to reform 
tenancy laws with the object of improving the economic 
position and the status of tenants. 

The most fruitful action on behalf of rural welfare had 
been accomplished through the agency of the co-operative 
societies, which in all provinces had been transferred to 
the control of Ministers. Through these societies a good 
deal of quiet constructive work had been carried on. 
Their membership and capital grew steadily, and one of 
their primary objects was the encouragement of thrift 
by collecting small shares, receiving deposits and attempt- 
ing to induce members to make compulsory contributions 
for special purposes. Agricultural non-credit societies 
were extending their operations every year. They under- 
took the joint sale of agricultural produce, the production 
and sale of implements and manures, the furtherance of 
irrigation projects, and the consolidation of holdings. 
They opened dispensaries and schools; they assisted the 
agricultural departments in spreading improved methods 
of cultivation; they maintained communications and 
built new roads. The co-operative movement had its own 
individual features in each province. In Madras, building 
societies, helped by the Government, were very active; 
cultivators had formed societies to enable them to hold 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

up their crops for a favourable market and the co-operative 
movement was spreading among the depressed classes. 
Bombay had developed co-operative banking, and imple- 
ment societies, which hired and maintained expensive 
agricultural machinery. In Assam the Department of 
Agriculture had been amalgamated with the Co-operative 
Society. Some of the money-lenders of Bengal had even 
taken to investing money in the co-operative societies, 
and in Bihar and Orissa a society had been formed to 
undertake farming on a large scale. In the Punjab, par- 
ticular attention was being paid to the consolidation of 
holdings and much valuable work had been done already 
in this respect. In one village which was consolidated, the 
rent of the area treated was reported to have doubled. 
A mortgage bank, assisted by the Government, had been 
opened to provide long-term credit for redeeming the 
heavy mortgage debt of the province and to finance 
large schemes 6f agricultural expansion. A very promising 
feature of the co-operative movement everywhere was 
the growing number of voluntary workers. 

Nevertheless, these achievements in economic and social 
improvement made by the Provincial Legislatures under 
the 1919 Act were no more than the merest foreshadowing 
of what such bodies might accomplish with greater powers 
under another system such a system, in fact, as was to 
come into existence under the Act of 1935. 



The Struggle for 
the Constitution, 19211926 

Bur, while the provinces were thus dealing with their own 
subjects of administration, struggling with their own par- 
ticular difficulties, and making the mistakes inevitable to 
inexperience, a big political battle was being fought out 
at the centre. At first this battle mainly took the form of a 
violent attack on the foundations of all constitutional 
government, an attack summed up in the Non-Co- 
operation cum Khilafat cum Sikh agitations, complicated 
by the dreadful Moplah rising in South India the most 
fearful of all the explosions of Hindu-Mohammedan 
enmity and by the rising tide of general inter-communal 
troubles which were the aftermath of the Moplah rebellion 
and the break-up of the Non-Co-operation movement. 
Throughout the three years of the life-time of the first 
Legislative Assembly, which was elected at the end of 
1920, the new Constitution was fighting for its life and 
public attention was concentrated perforce on what was 
happening outside the walk of the Legislatures. We have 
seen the beginnings of the great post-war political agita- 
tions, and although 1919 was perhaps the most dangerous 
year, because of the general weakness left by the strain of 
war and the highly explosive character of public feeling 
induced by the events culminating in the Jallianwala 
Bagh affair and the Afghan War, the events of the years 
immediately following were of painful and, at times, of 
critical importance. 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

By the time the 1919 Reforms came into operation at 
the beginning of 1921, the combined Non-Co-operation 
and Khilafat movement had grown to great strength, and 
the Sikh trouble in the Punjab had raised its head. This 
latter began as a purely religious movement by devout 
Sikhs to release some of their temples and other holy 
places from the virtual ownership of private persons, of 
whom some were not even Sikhs, but it was quickly taken 
over by political extremists and turned into a part of the 
general anti-Government campaign. It is not easy for the 
Western mind to understand the thoughts and feelings 
which gave such force to their strange and formidable 
assault on the foundations of settled government in India, 
represented by the Non-Co-operation movement, which 
drew its strength from these various major communities 
in the country. National aspirations, stronger and more 
general than ever before in India ; the pinch of economic 
conditions; war weariness and the vague uneasiness 
which accompanied it, and the desire, common to nearly 
all human beings, for change merely as change; these 
were all on the surface and were comprehensible enough. 
But when Mr. Gandhi appealed to the age-old and almost 
instinctive traditions of Hinduism, to the fundamental 
antagonism between the Hindu way of life and the 
bustling materialism of the European who mistakes the 
illusions of the senses for reality, he was going where no 
Englishman could follow him. 

Also, many of the charges made by Mohammedan 
agitators were such as could not be met by appeals to 
reason and bare statements of fact. Then, too, currents of 
opinion were setting in towards the people of India from 
all quarters, impalpable as the air which they breathed. 
A colossus of government had crashed to ruins in Russia. 
In Japan, as a Japanese scholar had recently told an 


The Struggle for the Constitution, 

American audience, "the new spirit that was gaining 
ground in Europe and America rushed into the Island 
Empire like an avalanche; democracy and liberty were 
much on the lips of the people." Events in Ireland were 
being daily discussed in the Indian Press, whilst in Egypt 
methods similar to those employed by Non-Co-operation 
in India were believed to have had the results which the 
latter movement set before itself. These all worked on 
Indian minds and contributed to the great ferment of 
feeling in which Hindus and Mohammedans for a while 
sank their ancient differences and presented a united front 
against the Government. Non-Co-operation developed, 
in its essential character, into more than a political move- 
ment based on the Punjab events of 1919 and the Khilafat 
agitation for the amelioration of the terms of the treaty 
of peace with the Turks. It soon spread far beyond these 
things and became, among large numbers of Indians, a 
state of mind, a revulsion not only from British rule in 
India, but from all the activities of that rule, even the 
most beneficent, like education which was largely boy- 
cotted. The greatest Indian writer of modern times, Sir 
Rabindranath Tagore, summed up all this side of the 
Non-Co-operation movement when he said, "The idea 
of Non-Co-operation is political asceticism. Our students 
. . . are bringing their offerings of sacrifice to what? Not 
to a fuller education, but to a non-education. It has at 
its back a fierce joy of annihilation, which at its best is 
asceticism and at its worst is that orgy of frightfulness in 
which the human nature, losing faith in the basic reality 
of normal life, finds a disinterested delight in a mere 
devastation, as has been shown in the late war. . . . The 
anarchy of mere emptiness never tempts me." 

So, when the new Constitution was inaugurated, it had 
no chance of being judged on its merits by the very 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

influential body of men who led the Non-Co-operation 
movement all over India. Normally, no matter how 
extreme their views might have been, they would have 
fought the moderate politicians for the control of the new 
electoral machinery and would have tried to use it to 
attain their own objects. But the state of mind which the 
Non-Co-operation movement had induced prevented this. 
The new Constitution was to be boycotted simply because 
it was foreign, and thus the new Legislatures were deprived 
at first of much of their representative character, and the 
political leaders whose doctrines made the most forcible 
appeal to the imagination and passions of the common 
folk stayed outside to conduct a violent campaign against 
the Government. 

Naturally, this state of mind led to popular outbreaks. 
Riots and outbreaks in gaols occurred and political strikes 
took place among the employees of railway and inland 
water transport lines. The economic condition of India 
was deteriorating at this time. The first wild boom of the 
post-war period was over. Indian exports shrank, internal 
prices were high, the monsoon of 1920 had been a com- 
plete failure and the whole year was one of unprecedented 
economic restlessness in India. Numbers of mushroom 
labour unions sprang up, many of them having a strong 
and totally irrational anti-Government bias. 

Amid such circumstances, the Reforms started to func- 
tion, surely almost the most unfavourable in which any 
democratic form of government had ever come to birth. 
What could the Government and moderate-minded 
Indians oppose to the sweeping promises of the agitators 
and the fierce emotions which had been roused among the 
masses, save counsels of reason and an appeal to work the 
new Constitution, whose great promise ^nd nation- 
building power could only be knowfc through its working 


The Struggle for the Constitution, 

by men free of bias and anti-social prejudice? And even 
its first fruits could not be reaped at once because of the 
'general financial stringency from which India suffered 
in common with most of the rest of the world, and to a 
greater extent than almost any other country, for, with 
the slender resources of an Asiatic community, the Indian 
Government had to meet the manifold needs of a modern 
progressive state. In short, nearly all the conditions for 
making a success of the Reforms were lacking, all save 
the fixed determination of the Indian Government, of 
Parliament, and of a devoted section of Indian politicians 
that they should be made a success. To this and to the 
immense inherent vitality of the Reforms themselves is 
due the fact that the new Constitution was not stillborn. 

The first elections to the new legislatures, which were 
held in November 1920, provided the stage for the first 
great clash between Moderates and Non-Co-operators. 
In their attempt to make the elections an utter failure, 
the Non-Co-operators failed, but out of almost a million 
electors for the Assembly, only about 182,000 polled their 
votes. The voting for the Provincial Councils was better, 
about 31 per cent of votes being cast, whilst for the 
Council of State more than half the electors voted. 
Seven hundred and seventy-four seats in the Central and 
Provincial Legislatures had to be filled, and for only six 
of these was there no candidate. Five hundred and thirty- 
five seats were contested with an average of three candi- 
dates per seat. The boycotting policy was most suc(j 
in the Punjab, the United Provinces, and 
this was the result of a good deal of intimidz 
as persuasion. A description of a comple 
given by Sir Valentine Chirol in India 
"About fifteen miles out we reached tfie^bJjy&llage oL 
Soraon . . . almost a small township I/~ I lid tlvllSrm* 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

there seemed little to suggest that this was the red letter 
day in Modern India. . . . Still, the small Court House, 
we found, had been swept and garnished for use as a 
polling station. Two small groups of people stood listlessly 
outside the building, the candidates' agents on one side 
of the entrance, and on the other the patwaris, the village 
scribes who keep the official land records, brought in 
from the different villages to attest the signatures and 
thumb marks of the voters. Inside, the presiding officer 
with his assistants sat at his table with the freshly prepared 
electoral roll in front of him and the voting paper to be 
handed to each voter as he passed into the inner sanctuary 
in which the ballot boxes awaited him. But voters there 
were none. From eight in the morning till past twelve 
not a single voter had presented himself . . . nor did a 
single one present himself in the course of the whole day." 

In Madras, however, the people simply revolted against 
the Non-Co-operation ideas, for there the non-Brahmins, 
the most numerous part of the population, were well led, 
partly organized, and had a distinct political conscious- 
ness, the result of years of agitation against Brahmin 
domination. They meant to capture their Provincial 
Council and all the seats in the Legislative Assembly 
which were open to them, and use the power thus gained 
for their communal advantage. They succeeded in this, 
and formed a solid party in the Madras Council, with the 
result that they were able to achieve many of their 

The composition of the various Legislatures returned by 
the first electors was a commentary on the state of things 
just described. For the most part the members were 
Moderates, land-holders, men of independent views, and 
politicians like the non-Brahmins of Madras, who were 
neither Moderates nor Non-Co-operators but waiters on 


The Struggle for the Constitution, 1921 1926 

events and opportunities. If these men represented only 
a part of Indian opinion, it was at any rate a sober and 
responsible part, and among them were some of the ablest 
men in India. The entry of the Non-Co-operators might, 
in the circumstances, have been bought at too great a 
price, for there were some questions notably those 
arising out of the events in the Punjab in 1919 
awaiting the attention of the first Assembly and Councils 
and their discussion might very easily have led to a display 
of mere race hatred. It is quite possible that had the 
extremists captured the Legislatures, this is precisely 
what would have happened, and passions might have 
been aroused which would have proved fatal to the 
success of the Reforms for years to come. But, as it was, 
the first Reformed Legislatures were allowed to function 

Actually, the new Central Legislature was able to do 
much of political importance, including the repeal of 
restrictive Press Acts, the carrying out of reforms in 
Criminal and Civil Law, the conclusion of a satisfactory 
agreement in the winding up of the Jallianwala Bagh and 
other outstanding events in the 1919 troubles, and the 
adoption of a sound and statesmanlike attitude towards 
the Government's attempts to restore the general political 
situation in the country. The moderation of the members 
of the Legislature, and the conciliatory efforts of the 
Government, did, in fact, confer on the Legislature a 
prestige and influence which undoubtedly went far to 
persuade the Non-Co-operators that they were making a 
serious mistake with their policy of boycott. 

But much had to happen before the progressive wing 
of the All-India National Congress was able to defeat 
Mr. Gandhi, and his "no-changers," and convince the 
majority of Congress men that the centre of gravity of 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

India's political life was now inside, and not outside the 
Legislatures. Throughout 1921 and the greater part of 
1922, the No-Co-operation and Khilafat agitations grew 
in strength, whilst the Sikh trouble was to cause anxiety 
for a longer period still. The scope of the agitation was 
revealed by a speech made by Mr. Gandhi early in 1921 
in which he said "To-day we are ruling India. The 
Government cannot cajole anybody. ... I positively 
assert that we are ruling India to-day." In order to give 
practical effect to this statement, the two brothers, 
Mahommad AH and Shaukat Ali, who were leading the 
Khilafat movement issued a command, purporting to 
carry with it religious sanctions, ordering all Moham- 
medans in the Army and Police to leave the services 
forthwith. They were arrested for this, and Mr. Gandhi 
was arrested early in 1922. But India was in a state of 
extreme unrest by this time and the Moplah rebellion 
which had broken out in August 1921 had brought 
something very like civil war to a part of the country. 
In Malabar, in the South, Hindus had been murdered or 
forcibly converted to Islam, their temples, homes, and 
villages had been destroyed and looted, communications 
had been destroyed, and, generally, fertile and flourishing 
areas had been temporarily reduced to ruin and 

Yet, an unbiased survey of the events of these years 
shows the Moplah rising as the turning point of the Non- 
Co-operation and Khilafat movements. The consciences 
of thoughtful men were stirred all over the country, and 
many even of the rank and file began to understand that 
other parts of India might match Malabar in the fury and 
scope of its fanatical outburst. Moreover, the enrolment 
of bands of "National Volunteers," many of whom were 
genuine enthusiasts and many of whom were merely using 

The Struggle for the Constitution, 19211926 

politics as a cloak for ordinary crime, frequently brought 
the peace-loving citizen himself into conflict with the 
agitators and caused wide-spread fears of a general collapse 
of law and order. Also, the revival of Hindu-Mohammedan 
enmity in its more active forms in 1922, in different parts 
of the country but particularly in the Punjab and on the 
Frontier, was another pointer to the dangers of long- 
continued agitation on the scale and of the kind organized 
by the leaders of the Non-Co-operation and Khilafat 
movements. Consequently, the arrest of Mjc ^EfehdSi;* 
and the assumption by the Governmentx^'of India of 
special powers to deal with Iawlessne^**pp0voked 
favourable reaction, and during 1922 
steadily declined. The Mohammedan 
ment the Khilafat agitation died a 
the peaceful settlement of the post-war 
between Great Britain and Turkey, 
frontal attack on constitutional gover 
itself, at any rate for the time being. And 
of Congress men into the Legislatures at the 
1923, the struggle was transferred from the streets of 
India's towns and villages to the Legislatures set up by 
the 1919 Act. That is to say, by the beginning of 1924 
the new legislative bodies had established themselves, 
against fierce and sustained assault, as the undeniable 
centre of gravity of the country's political life. It was, in 
fact, tacitly recognized, even by Congressmc 
effective political action was no longer pos 
within these constitutional provisions for suj 

Nevertheless, the next attempt to force 
the Government which was made by the] 
wing of Indian politicians was perhap 
dangerous than the violent frontal attack of 
Non-Co-operation, Khilafat, and Sikh agit 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

the form, as its exponents themselves described it, of 
"wrecking the Reforms from within." Briefly, the tactics 
were to capture a majority of seats in the different legis- 
lative bodies and then by automatic opposition to bring 
the entire work of these bodies to a standstill. The Act 
of 1919 contained provisions for such a contingency. If 
it were found impossible to continue the dyarchic system, 
then the Governor of the province was to assume full 
control of all the functions of provincial government and 
govern by executive fiat. The dangers of such a state of 
affairs are, of course, at once apparent to any student of 
politics, and it is clear that in the event of a breakdown 
of the new Constitution extremists all over the country 
would find unparalleled opportunities for further agi- 
tation and disorganization. 

On the whole, however, the system held firm. Only 
in Bengal and the Central Provinces were the Congress- 
men able to bring the working of dyarchy to a standstill, 
there was always enough opposition to these merely 
wrecking tactics to enable the Governors to find repre- 
sentative ministries with sufficient support in the legis- 
lative body to carry on their work, and, as we shall see, 
by 1926 one of the periodical splits in the Congress ranks 
had developed so far as to nullify the policy of merely 
negative opposition. 

In the Central Legislature, however, or, more 
accurately, in the Legislative Assembly, the attempt to 
make the working of the new Constitution impossible was 
pressed with vigour and imagination. The Congress 
representatives formed a strong bloc which needed only 
comparatively little support from other groups of members 
to have a majority against the Government. For some 
time this support was forthcoming, notably from a more 
or less organized group calling themselves the Independent 


The Struggle for the Constitution, 1921 1926 

Party. This was a passing phase, however, and such joint 
action as there was between these groups or sections never 
developed into a firm coalition. But the Congress members 
knew that they could count with certainty on the support 
of enough members of the Assembly to give them a 
majority on any demand for further political reforms, or 
any censure of the Government for using the special 
powers conferred on it by law for dealing with subversive 
agitation or terrorist activities. Consequently, they con- 
centrated their energies at these vulnerable points, and, 
from 1924 onwards, they repeatedly defeated the Govern- 
ment on one occasion after another by moving resolutions 
demanding complete autonomy if not independence of 
Great Britain for India, and condemning the use of 
extraordinary legislation and ordinances directed against 
revolutionaries and terrorists, notably in Bengal. 

These tactics met with a large measure of success. The 
nationalist newspapers reported at length the proceedings 
and speeches in the Legislative Assembly, which, being 
privileged, repeatedly exceeded the limits which even the 
ordinary law would have allowed the speakers outside 
the Assembly Chamber. At the centre, the new Con- 
stitution functioned with steadily increasing friction, and 
the tireless efforts of the local Congress organizations all 
over India began to crack the solid crust of rural ignorance 
of, and indifference to, politics. Newspaper and platform 
attacks on the Government and all that it stood for became 
more numerous and bitter, and, generally, Indians, even 
in the villages, began to be conscious of themselves as 
"political animals." In fact, the middle igao's form a 
definite boundary in Indian social and political life. After 
those years we see an interest in, and, even, some know- 
ledge of, purely political affairs which was almost com- 
pletely lacking among the masses before then. This is the 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

beginning of a development which must lead ultimately 
to a political life as advanced, and a political influence 
as effective as that enjoyed by the masses elsewhere, and 
it cannot be denied that this development must be set 
very largely to the credit of the Congress Party. 

The demands of the latter were stated in a resolution 
moved in the Legislative Assembly by their leader, 
Pandit Motilal Nehru, in 1924. This demand has remained 
virtually unchanged since that day and has become 
generally known as the "National Demand." In its final 
shape it runs "This Assembly recommends to the 
Governor-General in Council to take steps to have the 
Government of India Act revised with a view to establish- 
ing full responsible government in India and for the said 
purpose (i) to summon at an early date a representative 
Round Table Conference to recommend with due regard 
to the protection of the rights and interests of important 
minorities the scheme of a Constitution for India and 
(ii) after dissolving the Central Legislature to place the 
said scheme before a newly elected Indian Legislature 
for its approval and submit the same to the British 
Parliament to be embodied in a Statute." 

It was carried in the Assembly by a large majority, 
although, significantly, it was openly opposed by some 
Mohammedan members. And, the very next day, the 
unity of the nationalist opposition to the Government 
was all but split by a resolution moved by a Mohammedan 
member seeking to increase Mohammedan representation 
in the Central and Provincial Legislatures and in the 
Government services. A personal appeal by Pandit 
Motilal Nehru secured the indefinite postponement of 
the resolution, but the members' action was another 
pointer to that deep-seated division in Indian society 
which still provides all concerned with the country's 


The Struggle for the Constitution, 1921-1926 

political future with their most intractable problem. 
However, the "National Demand," together with the 
feelings which it roused in the Assembly and in many 
parts of India, showed the Viceroy, Lord Reading, that 
opinion was sufficiently strong and united to make some 
positive action by the Government necessary. He there- 
fore appointed a strong and representative committee to 
enquire into the changes which might be made within 
the four corners of the 1919 Act, in order to make its 
provisions more acceptable to all but the most extreme 
sections in the country. Still more important, it was from 
this time that he began to insist that the statutory overhaul 
of the Act might with advantage be antedated. The pace 
of political change and progress in India was at last 
speeding up. 

Inevitably, with this speeding up, and with the spread- 
ing of political consciousness which has been noted 
above, the unity of Congress opposition to the Govern- 
ment and the simplicity of its policy of automatic 
opposition began to encounter difficulties of increasing 
gravity. Throughout 1924, the tide of communal antagon- 
ism rose steadily until it broke in September in the 
dreadful riots in Kohat in which over a hundred and 
fifty people were killed or wounded and vast amounts of 
property were looted. The whole Hindu population of 
Kohat evacuated the town and fierce recriminations 
burst between the two communities all over India. An 
"All Parties" Conference, including Christian repre- 
sentatives, was held as a result of this riot to try to find 
some solution of the age-old problem, but in February 
1925, a sub-committee of this conference which had been 
charged with the task of finding some modus Vivendi had 
to adjourn, indefinitely, because, as Mr. Gandhi, himself 
a member of the sub-committee explained, the very 

81 F 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

desire for a settlement was lacking. Naturally, these 
deplorable developments affected opinion and tempers in 
the Legislatures, with the result that the unity of the 
Congress opposition was breached and the effectiveness 
of its action impaired. Then, too, a movement on the 
right wing of Congress in favour of seizing and using the 
powers conferred by the 1919 Act gathered strength 
until, in 1926, some of the leaders definitely broke with 
the policy of obstruction and formulated a policy of 
"responsive co-operation" by which they could co-operate 
with the Government in any measures which were 
demonstrably designed to benefit the people of India. 
It was this movement which stopped the wrecking policy 
in the Provincial Legislatures, and, in the end, largely 
contributed to bringing about the state of affairs in India 
in which the British Government felt itself able to advance 
the statutory enquiry into the working of the 1919 Act. 
And, during 1925, the last remnants of the first of the 
post-war "direct action" movements in Indian politics 
disappeared with the settlement of the Sikh problems, 
leaving the field clear for an appraisal of the general 
political problem on its merits. In a word, some, at any 
rate, of the healthy and desirable developments contem- 
plated by the 1919 Act had come about. The Congress 
Party's "walk-out" from the Central Legislature in 
March 1926 was, in effect, a striking illustration of this 
truth. They had failed to bring the work of the Legislature 
to a standstill and their walk-out had no important effect 
on its activities. Even so, they were compelled to return 
to their places in the following session for reasons which 
will be discussed. 



The Setting for the Round 
Table Conference 

LORD READING'S departure from India thus coincided 
with an almost complete lull in political agitation. The 
Non-Co-operation, Khilafat, and Sikh movements had 
died down, the two latter because of the substantial 
settlement of all the reasonable claims advanced by the 
Mohammedans and Sikhs respectively, the Non-Co- 
operation movement owing to the important cleavages 
in the ranks of the Congress Party itself, which have 
already been discussed, and, also, to the rapidly growing 
tension between Hindus and Mohammedans. Indeed, it 
was in the Hindu-Mohammedan situation that the new 
Viceroy, Lord Irwin, found his first serious problem in 

This fact in itself is a good index to the change which 
had come over the system of Indian government since 
the inauguration of the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. 
Lord Reading, as we have seen, had to act, in effect, as 
leader of the Government political party in India, to 
conduct personal negotiations with the leaders of the 
opposition, to decide political problems of the highest 
importance and difficulty, either on his own responsi- 
bility or in consultation with the Secretary of State for 
India. In a word, it was during his Viceroyalty that the 
conception of the Viceroy's duties changed completely. 
Until 1921, the ideal head of the Indian Government 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

was a man of first-class administrative ability and experi- 
ence. After that year, it was necessary that he should be 
a statesman. All that happened during Lord Reading's 
Viceroyalty stressed the truth of this view, and by the 
time Lord Irwin arrived it was fully established. 

The tide of Hindu-Mohammedan antagonism rose 
swiftly during the summer months of 1926 and it was on 
July i yth that Lord Irwin found himself compelled to 
appeal to the whole country in this connection. And in 
his speech he marked this new position of the Viceroy by 
a bold appeal for peace "In the name of Indian national 
life" and "In the name of Religion." Moreover, as the 
months of his Viceroyalty passed, Lord Irwin assumed 
more and more openly the position of leader of the forces 
in India working for constitutional progress, until, by 
1929, when, as we shall see, the Round Table Conference 
had become a definite and immediate objective of Indian 
politics, the issue as between progress by constitutional 
reform, or by the sudden and complete revolution 
demanded by the Congress Party, became concentrated 
in a personal contest between Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi 
for the leadership of the great mass of Indian political 
opinion which lay between the reactionaries of the extreme 
right and the revolutionaries of the extreme left. In a word, 
by 1926 India had passed for ever out of the stage of 
government by a benevolent autocracy into the stage 
of at any rate incipient autonomy. The speed at which 
full autonomy could be reached depended henceforth on 
two factors only. The first, and far away the most impor- 
tant, of these was the rise of true national solidarity in 
place of the clash of communal interests and feelings. 
The second, which obviously depends very largely on the 
first, was the development of the institutions of democratic 
government and experience in their use and control. 


The Setting for the Round Table Conference 

A completely objective survey of the events in India 
between the beginning of Lord Irwin's Viceroyalty 
and its culminating event, the Round Table Conference 
which opened at the end of 1930, shows that, unhappily, 
there was no improvement in the communal situation. 
In fact, there was a steady deterioration, a process which 
was to influence very seriously the work and results of the 
Round Table Conference itself. On the other hand, the 
growth of a vigorous political life in the country proceeded 
as far and as speedily as it could in the absence of that 
national unity without which the development of the 
central and all-important institution of any form of 
democratic government, namely, a true party system, is 

The revival of political life from the coma into which it 
fell with the collapse of Non-Co-operation came about 
in curious fashion, the occasion of the revival throwing 
light on many of the underlying conditions and basic 
forces in Indian politics. The occasion was the intro- 
duction of a highly technical Government measure to 
stabilize the Indian standard coin the rupee at the 
gold value of one shilling and sixpence in place of the 
pre-war value of one shilling and fourpence. For all its 
technical character, such a measure as this was, of course, 
a matter of the greatest importance to every man and 
woman in the country concerned since its subject is the 
very pith and marrow of any national economic system. 
The "Rupee Stabilization Bill" was the outcome of the 
majority report of the Royal Commission on Indian 
Currency and Finance, and, in view of the strong Indian 
representation on the Commission, there was good reason 
to expect that discussion of the measure would centre 
in its purely technical and economic implications. This, 
however, did not happen, and even before the Bill was 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

actually introduced into the Legislature, it had assumed a 
purely political and even racial character. 

Broadly speaking, the increase in the gold value of the 
rupee as compared with its pre-war value, would benefit 
all consumers of imported goods whilst it would penalize 
those Indian industries which had to import substantial 
amounts of their raw materials, or had to export sub- 
stantial proportions of their manufactured goods. Indian 
agriculture is, of course, one of the chief exporting indus- 
tries of the country, and, therefore, was liable to be 
penalized. On the other hand, the hundreds of millions 
of agriculturalists stood to gain on the numerous imported 
goods which they consumed. At any rate, the whole issue 
was one for expert debate and both supporters and oppo- 
nents of the proposed new rate had valid arguments at 
their disposal. But the industrial interests opposed to the 
Bill set on foot an organized campaign to defeat it, and the 
Congress leaders saw in this new development an excellent 
occasion for returning without embarrassment to the 
Legislature which they had left in March. They took up 
the opposition of the Bill, and with this action the proposed 
rupee ratio amazingly acquired the character of a racial 
issue, and it was as such that some extremist newspapers 
handled it throughout. 

And then, another strange turn in the situation occurred. 
The Mohammedan political leaders decided that this was 
an opportunity for rallying their own forces against the 
predominantly Hindu Congress Party, and so they 
espoused the Government's cause. In the end, the Bill 
was carried by the narrow margin of three votes, but the 
battle in the Legislature had electrified every part of the 
country owing to the strength of the passions which had 
been let loose on both sides, and the lull in the political 
struggle was at an end. 


The Setting for the Round Table Conference 

The alignment of forces in the rupee controversy was, 
in fact, a specific illustration of the general alignment of 
political opinion in India between 1926 and 1929. Broadly 
speaking, during those years, the Mohammedans entered 
into more and more friendly relations with the Govern- 
ment and their supporters in the Legislatures, while the 
various bodies of organized political opinion other than 
the Congress Party which, of course, remained unswerv- 
ingly opposed to the Government gravitated steadily 
towards that Party, or at any rate, supported it in all 
but its more extreme proposals. It is true that these other 
bodies of organized political opinion were, for the most 
part, mainly recruited from the Hindu community, but 
that fact alone does not account for their general alliance 
with the Congress Party. As the time drew near for the 
review of the working of the Montagu-Chelmsford 
Reforms, as laid down in the 1919 Act, even the more 
moderate sections of opinion in India began to demand 
far-reaching changes in the system of government in 
India, and thus caused all the minority communities, 
and primarily, of course, the Mohammedans, to formulate 
their claims and their demands for specific safeguards. 
The general elections to the Indian Legislature Assembly 
and the Provincial Councils which fell at the end of 1926 
were fought out on frankly communal lines, the majority 
of Hindu and Mohammedan candidates basing their 
claims to election on the specific grounds of their cham- 
pionship of the interests of their own community. It was 
the Legislative Assembly elected at these general elections 
which passed the Rupee Stabilization Bill, and, later, 
discussed the question of Co-operation or Non-Co-opera- 
tion with the Simon Commission. Hindu-Mohammedan 
tension botji inside and outside the Central Legislature 
was increased by the controversy which raged round the 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

Commission, and afterwards throughout the proceedings 
of the Round Table Conference. 

No simple and all-embracing explanation of the revival 
and the present scope and character of Hindu-Moham- 
medan antagonism is possible. All sorts of factors 
religious, racial, social, economic, and traditional are 
inextricably bound up in it. Religious differences furnish 
a permanent incentive to quarrels, and religious festivals 
often provide the spark which causes the conflagration, 
but the antagonism between the two communities is 
very far from being limited by religion. It now has strong 
economic ingredients and its objectives are definitely 
political, and, in a province like the Punjab, even racial. 

The history of Hindu-Mohammedan tension since the 
war of 1914-18 has shown on the Mohammedan side an 
increasing determination to achieve a political position 
in which Mohammedan interests should not be subject 
to the control of a majority vote in a democratically 
elected Legislature, since, in all but two of the major 
provinces of India, Mohammedans must be in a per- 
manent minority. The latest development of this deter- 
mination, as we shall see, is that India shall be divided 
into two nations, a Hindu nation and a Mohammedan 
nation, an ideal whose realization would mean the nega- 
tion of Indian national unity, and the abandonment, 
at any rate for a very long time, of all hopes of a strong, 
self-governing India. It cannot be doubted that the whole 
trend of Hindu-Mohammedan relations since 1921 
represents a most formidable political problem, which 
awaits solution by Hindus and Mohammedans themselves. 

But it must not for a moment be assumed that the 
problem is insoluble. The past history of India made 
inevitable some such phase as this in Hindu-Mohamme- 
dan relations. When the British conquered India from the 


The Setting for the Round Table Conference 

middle of the eighteenth century onwards, they conquered 
it from the Mogul emperors who were still the titular 
rulers of the country in spite of the inroads made on their 
domains by the Mahratta and other powers. Over the 
whole of the Mogul Empire Mohammedans held positions 
of power and profit as satraps and officials of all kinds 
and degrees before the coming of the British, and they 
have never forgotten that they preceded the British as 
rulers. So, now that the process of creating an indigenous 
government of India has begun, and is gathering mo- 
mentum year by year, Mohammedans look to their past 
history, and old problems and conditions which had been, 
so to speak, frozen under the strong rule of the British 
are coming to life again and demanding attention. How 
to solve these problems and how to transform these 
conditions in the light of present-day needs is the task 
which lies before the leaders of the two communities, 
helped, as far as possible, by British experience and 

Lord Irwin had not been very long in India before he 
discovered, as Lord Reading had done, at the end of 
his Viceroyalty, that the time was ripe for another review 
of the Government of India Act. In the provinces, 
dyarchy had played the part allotted to it, by giving 
responsible Ministers experience of the handling of 
administrative power. But events had shown that it 
could not lead to the rise of real political parties, nor 
could it, from its very nature, give birth at any time to 
the autonomous and collectively responsible Provincial 
Government such as is found in other British Dominions, 
and was the ideal of Indian politicians of all shades of 
opinion. At the centre, too, the Reforms showed no very 
obvious possibilities of further useful developments. 
The Congress opposition had definitely rejected all propo- 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

sals that they should work the Reforms as a constitutional 
opposition, and, indeed, from the moment they entered 
the new legislative bodies at the 1923 elections, the Con- 
stitution functioned with ever-increasing difficulty against 
their practically automatic obstruction. From time to 
time, splits took place in the Congress Party as one section 
or another decided to work the Reforms, but the main 
official body of Congress never changed policy and were 
able to increase the drag and friction on the governmental 
machine as the years went by. The provisions of the 
Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, so far as the Central 
Government was concerned, were such as to perpetuate 
and increase these difficulties. The complete lack of 
responsibility of the Government of India to the Legis- 
lature, coupled with the latter's elected and non-official 
majority and the wide powers of question, resolution- 
moving and so on possessed by its members, all marked 
out this side of the Reforms as purely temporary. It was 
expected that the provinces would provide the seed-bed 
and nursery of democratic institutions in India and that 
these would, in due course, be transplanted to the centre. 
But, as we have seen, the possibilities of growth in the 
provinces were strictly limited, and the politicians at the 
centre were not willing to wait. 

From the beginning of his Viceroyalty, one of the 
major aims of Lord Irwin's policy was to get the Congress 
Party back into the Constitution so to speak, to persuade 
them to abandon their attitude of sterile non-co-operation 
and work constitutionally for the attainment of their 
objectives. It was clear, however, that nothing but a 
major political move could accomplish this aim, and 
that nothing less than a revision of the whole system of 
government in India would constitute the necessary 
move. There was no possibility of the extreme claims made 


The Setting for the Round Table Conference 

by the Congress Party in the "Independence Resolution" 
of 1924 being met, since that would have involved a 
complete surrender to the Congress, and of correspondingly 
violent reaction from non-Congress and anti-Congress 
elements in the country. But, through careful sounding 
of representatives of all sections of political thought in 
India, Lord Irwin assured himself that an offer to ante- 
date the statutory enquiry into the working of the 1919 
Act would be widely welcomed, even by many members 
of the Congress Party itself. 

The attitude of the British Government towards 
demands for an immediate revision of the system of 
government in India had always been the same, namely, 
that as long as the strongest and best-organized section 
of Indian political opinion persisted in the policy of 
continuous and automatic non-co-operation, the con- 
ditions necessary for the objective examination of a highly 
complicated problem were lacking. But, by the middle of 
1927, Lord Irwin was able to persuade the India Office 
that there had lately been signs "that while those who 
have been foremost in advancing the claims of India 
to full self-government have in no way abandoned 
principles, they have felt it their duty to assert" there was 
nevertheless "a greater disposition to deal with the actual 
facts of the situation." Another aspect of the Indian 
situation which strongly influenced Lord Irwin in this 
matter was that of communal relations. He always 
thought that the very uncertainty over the form which 
future constitutional changes might take, was a powerful 
contributory force in communal antagonism since, as 
he himself explained to the people of India, "each side 
may have been, consciously or unconsciously, actuated 
by the desire to strengthen, as they supposed, their 
relative position in anticipation of the Statutory Com- 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

However this might be, it was clear by the 
middle of 1927 that on all grounds of broad constitutional 
considerations and current political conditions, nothing 
but harm could result from any further delay in under- 
taking the enquiry into the working of the system of 
government in India provided for in the 1919 Act, and 
accordingly, in November 1927, His Majesty's Govern- 
ment announced the appointment of the Indian Statu- 
tory Commission, better known as the Simon Commission 
from its chairman, Sir John Simon. 

From the Indian point of view, however, there was one 
fatal flaw in the composition of the Commission, namely, 
that no Indian was included among its members. Lord 
Birkenhead, who was then Secretary of State for India, 
gave at full length the British Government's reason for 
appointing a purely British Commission, but the reason 
which weighed most heavily in the final decision was that 
it was impossible to find any Indian members who had 
not already committed themselves to definite views from 
which they would not and could not depart. But, of course, 
it was impossible for the great majority of Indians to look 
at the matter from this point of view. Their argument 
was that the Commission's task would be to settle the 
political future of India and the Indian people, and 
that to exclude representatives of the latter from the 
investigating body was not only an affront to Indian 
self-respect, but was even prima facie evidence of a funda- 
mental dishonesty of purpose. The fact that the British 
Labour Party, which had always been friendly to Indian 
aspirations, associated themselves fully with the Com- 
mission and allowed two of their leading members to 
accept nomination to the Commission did not lay these 
suspicions to rest. Neither did the equally important 
fact in this connection, that careful arrangements had 


The Setting for the Round Table Conference 

been made for the association of Indian opinion with the 
Commission at all stages of its work. In the first place, 
the British Government believed that the Commission's 
work would be greatly facilitated if it were to invite the 
two houses of the Indian Central Legislature to appoint 
a Joint Select Committee from among their unofficial 
members to lay its views before the Commission. This 
proposed Committee might, further, remain in being 
for any consultation which the Commission might 
desire at any subsequent stage. It was suggested also that 
a similar procedure should be adopted with the Provincial 
Legislatures. Even after the Commission had presented 
its report to Parliament, the association of Indians with 
its work was not to end, for it was intended that when 
the British Government's proposal on the report reached 
the Joint Select Committee stage, the view of the Indian 
Legislature should be ascertained from delegations 
which would be invited to attend in London. It would 
also be open to the Joint Select Committee to obtain the 
views of any other bodies in India whom it wanted 
to consult. 

These arrangements were explained to India by Lord 
Irwin in a public announcement on November 8th, 
1927, but they had no power to check the almost unani- 
mous expression of disapproval, and even resentment, 
which arose in Indian political circles. At once the propo- 
sal was made to boycott the Commission, 
taken up v^dth enthusiasm by most sectior 
opinion in 'the country except the majorjj 
dans, whose determination to co-oper| 
mission str< sngthened as the moveme 
by some se ctions of the old Indian 
the strong Justice Party in the south 

It was ozjlv naturaj that the sup 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

drawn as they were from a number of separate and even 
rival political parties and groups, should try to settle 
their hitherto existing differences in order to present a 
united opposition to the Government of India and the 
Statutory Commission. Therefore, the Congress and 
Nationalist Parties, the Independent Party led by Mr. 
Jinnah, which included a number of Mohammedans 
and many of the Liberal Party, held an "All-Party" 
Conference in Delhi in March 1928 to try to settle the 
most important differences between Hindus and Mo- 
hammedans, preparatory to making a powerful demarche 
to the Government. These differences were: first, the 
retention or abolition of the system of communal elec- 
torates ; secondly, the extension of the Montagu-Chelms- 
ford Reforms to the North- West Frontier Province which 
had an overwhelming Mohammedan majority and had 
hitherto been excluded from the Reforms; and thirdly, 
the separation of Sind from the Bombay Presidency and 
its elevation to the status of a province also with an 
overwhelming Mohammedan majority. But Mohamme- 
dans were not ready to give up their system of communal 
electorates and the Hindu spokesmen would not con- 
sider the extension of reforms to the Frontier Province 
or the separation of Mohammedan Sind from predomi- 
nantly Hindu Bombay. The Conference, therefore, came 
to nothing. But the determination of the sections repre- 
sented at the Conference to boycott the Simon Com- 
mission remained as strong as ever. 

Sir John Simon and his colleagues visited India twice 
for the purposes of their enquiry. They landed in Bombay 
on their first visit on February 3, 1928, to find that the 
annual Christmas and New Year conferences of the 
leading political associations, namely, the All-India 
Muslim League and the Indian Liberal Federation, 


The Setting for the Round Table Conference 

had not altered the boycott position in any important 
particular. Sir John Simon, naturally, was anxious to 
meet all reasonable Indian demands and was prepared 
to go to the farthest possible limit to convince the Indian 
political leaders that they could co-operate with him 
without derogating from either their political principles 
or their own self-respect. Accordingly, on February 6th, 
he wrote a letter to Lord Irwin proposing that the 
Statutory Commission and the Committee to be chosen 
by the Indian Central Legislature should together form a 
"Joint Free Conference" which should receive all evi- 
dence, whether oral or written. In the same way, each 
Provincial Legislature was to be asked to nominate a 
provincial committee to sit with the Statutory Commission 
as the Indian wing of the Joint Free Conference, when- 
ever the Conference was considering provincial subjects 
in a particular province. This offer did not, however, 
have any noticeable effect on the attitude of the All- 
India politicians who were boycotting the Commission, 
but it helped to influence opinion in the provinces, 
and, in the event, every Provincial Legislature except 
one that of the Central Provinces decided to nominate 
a committee to co-operate with the Simon Commission. 
But the All-India party leaders refused to modify the 
boycott in any particular, and, indeed, set up a rival 
Commission of their own to produce a report on Indian 
Constitutional Reforms. Actually this report, which 
was issued in 1928, was the work mainly of two men, 
Pandit Motilal Nehru, the leader of the Congress Party, 
and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, one of the most distinguished 
of the Indian Liberals. In essence, the Nehru Report, 
as this document came to be called, was a rather naive 
attempt to compromise between the rival Hindu and 
Mohammedan claims discussed by the All-Parties Con- 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

ference. The Nehru Report recommended the extension 
of existing and future reforms to the North- West Frontier 
Province, on exactly the same terms as any other province 
and also supported the promotion of Sind to the pro- 
vincial status. As a sop to the Hindus, the report recom- 
mended the abolition of communal electorates. The 
result of this report was merely to accentuate Hindu- 
Mohammedan differences since neither side would 
accept it, and by the end of 1928 communal antagonism 
and the fragmentation of political opinion had reached 
a point at which it became necessary for the Governments 
of Great Britain and India seriously to consider the 
situation and devise measures for its improvement. 


The Round Table Conference 

THE measures to be taken were never really in doubt. 
It is true that both in England and in India influential 
sections of thought called for strong disciplinary action 
against the left-wing leaders in Congress and out of it, 
and many wished to seize the opportunity actually to set 
back the political clock by returning to a simpler and 
more autocratic form of government for India. But such 
views as these were doomed to disappointment from the 
start, because Lord Irwin knew that the conditions of the 
day called for advance rather than retreat, and, also, 
because in Mr. Wedgwood Benn, who became Secretary 
of State for India in 1929, he found a man who not only 
shared his views but had all the necessary force and 
courage to put them into practice. Accordingly, in June 
1929, Lord Irwin came to England on leave to make 
known his suggestions for the restoration of the situation 
in India, and to discuss them with the leaders of the 
various political parties. Briefly, the gist of his proposals 
was that representatives of all sections of Indian opinion, 
including the Princes, should be invited to meet His 
Majesty's Government to discuss the political future of 
India. The proposal was, of course, one to be looked at 
very carefully in view of the fact that the Simon Com- 
mission had not yet reported, and that, unless Sir John 
Simon and his colleagues agreed, the development con- 
templated by Lord Irwin might easily render their work 

97 Q 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

null and void. Mr. Benn, strongly impressed by his own 
knowledge of the state of affairs in India, accepted Lord 
Irwin's argument that the proposed development was, 
in fact, the only thing that could ensure any sort of a 
hearing in India for the Simon Commission's Report 
when it appeared. The important boycotting elements 
had already prejudged it and it had simply no chance of 
making any impression on them. And yet it had been 
shown that Indians themselves could produce no accept- 
able alternative. The dilemma was complete. The 
members of the Statutory Commission obviously accepted 
the view that some new move of the first importance was 
necessary to restore the position in India for on October 16, 
1929, Sir John Simon wrote a letter to Mr. Ramsay 
MacDonald, who was then Prime Minister, asking on 
behalf of his colleagues as well as himself whether the 
British Government would allow the members of the 
Statutory Commission to interpret their terms of reference 
in such a way as would enable them to examine the 
methods by which the future relations between British 
India and the Indian States might be adjusted. If the 
Government agreed to this, then some sort of Conference 
might be arranged at which representatives both of the 
Indian States and of British India might attend to meet 
His Majesty's Government for the purpose of reaching 
the greatest possible measure of agreement on the 
Commission's proposals. 

These proposals were welcomed by the British and 
Indian Governments and Lord Irwin returned to India 
to put them before the political leaders and people of 
the country. They duly appeared in a statement issued 
on October 31, 1929. The immediate reaction was en- 
couraging. The day after the publication of the statement 
two meetings of political leaders of all sections of opinion 


The Round Table Conference 

were called, one at Bombay and one at Delhi, and were 
attended by strong and influential representatives, in 
spite of the extreme shortness of the notice. At Bombay, 
the meeting was all but unanimous in welcoming the 
Viceroy's offer, but at Delhi, where most of the more 
extreme Congressmen were assembled, the result was 
different. The Congressmen wanted to make conditions 
which neither His Majesty's Government nor certain 
powerful Indian interests were likely to accept, but the 
influence of the non-Congressmen who were present at 
the meeting was sufficient to prevent the extremists from 
carrying the day. In the end, a carefully worded state- 
ment was issued by those present at the Delhi meeting to 
the effect that they hoped to tender their co-operation, 
but that "certain acts should be done and certain points 
should be cleared to inspire trust and ensure the co- 
operation of the principal political organizations of the 
country." The acts and points referred to were left vague 
and for some time it was widely believed that even the 
more extreme Congressmen would hesitate to reject the 
Viceroy's offer. By the end of November, every political 
party and politician of standing in India, with the sole 
exception of the Congress Party, had openly declared 
their support of Lord Irwin's statement. But, as the year 
drew to its close, it became increasingly clear that the 
Congress Party would not align itself with the others, and 
when Mr. Gandhi and Pandit Motilal Nehru, the Party 
leader, insisted that Congress \yould take part in the 
proposed Conference only if its functions were specifically 
confined to working out a form of government for India 
on the lines of full and immediate Dominion Status, the 
question of Congress participation was settled for the 
time being. .The 1929 Session of the All-India National 
Congress made this quite clear, and, furthermore, 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

carried a resolution demanding the "independence" of 

This resolution, however, led to another of those 
breaches in Congress unity which have marked its pro- 
gress at every important turning point in Indian history 
since 1908. The right wing of the Congress Party was 
seriously alarmed, whilst even the leaders of the Party 
were shaken by the fate of another resolution which was 
put to the Congress at this session. An attempt had been 
made to derail the Viceroy's train on December 23rd 
just before the opening of the session, and Mr. Gandhi 
moved a resolution condemning the outrage. In spite 
of his influence and that of the other Congress leaders 
who supported him, the resolution had to be modified 
in tone and even then was carried only by a narrow 

There were others in India, besides the right wing of 
Congress, who viewed the results of the latter's session 
with apprehension, and their feelings were expressed by 
the spokesmen of the All-India Liberal Federation which 
met at the same time as Congress. The Liberals were 
whole-hearted in their acceptance of Lord Irwin's offer, 
and their leaders performed a useful service by explaining 
that the Viceroy's statement of October 3ist represented 
the policy not only of the Labour Government in power 
in England, but also of the official leaders of the Con- 
servative and Liberal Parties. The explanation was 
necessary, because debates on Lord Irwin's statement, 
which had taken place in both Houses of Parliament, 
had, naturally, evoked much hostile criticism of the 
proposed Round Table Conference, and, just as naturally, 
it was the more pungent of this criticism which had been 
given the widest publicity in India. However, by the 


The Round Table Conference 

beginning of 1930, the political alignment was complete. 
As far as the Round Table Conference was concerned, it 
was the Congress Party against the rest, and there were 
important individuals and sections inside that Party 
who would rather have supported Lord Irwin than their 
own leaders. In fact, in the absence of any major dis- 
turbing influences, there were prospects of a general 
agreement by all parties, including at least the greater 
part of the Congress Party, to co-operate with the Govern- 
ment in this latest attempt to find the basis of a permanent 
political settlement. 

Unfortunately, the major disturbing influence was to 
show itself in 1930 in the shape of a revival of the Non- 
Co-operation movement by Mr. Gandhi in person. The 
general situation had definitely grown worse during 1929. 
The protracted course of the Public Safety Bill in the 
Legislative Assembly a measure introduced in 1928 to 
give the Government power to deal with certain kinds of 
revolutionary agitators had given rise to strong partisan 
feelings on all sides of the House, from which they had 
spread throughout the country, feelings which were 
largely responsible for the bomb outrage in the Assembly 
chamber at the end of the Delhi session of 1929. The 
various youth movements on the extreme left of Indian 
politics provided ample and willing material for a revival 
of terrorist activities, and, inevitably, political extremism 
was matched by communal extremism. Actual rioting 
between the two communities was not so frequent in these 
days as it had been, but the political differences between 
them grew increasingly acute and their scope widened 
continually. Already by 1930 it was quite clear that no 
agreement was likely to be reached by any Conference 
of the two sides on such crucial matters as communal 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

representation, the creation of new provinces with 
Mohammedan majorities, as in the case of Sind, and the 
promotion of the North- West Frontier Province to the 
status of a full province with all the ordinary legislative 
and administrative apparatus of a "Governor's Province." 
Any attempts to bring about a settlement of these and 
other outstanding problems could be no more than 
merely formal, and, as a matter of fact, no notable 
attempt was made after the fiasco of the All-Parties 
Conference, until Mr. Gandhi and the Aga Khan tried 
to come to an agreement during the second session of the 
Round Table Conference, when the work of the whole 
Conference was being held up by the irreconcilable clash 
of opinion and interests between the representatives of 
the two communities. 

Meanwhile, the work of the Conference went on in 
London. The summoning of the Round Table Conference 
was the outcome of the strength and tenacity of Indian 
nationalists and the flexibility of British policy and 
institutions. The composition of the Conference was a 
living illustration of the great diversity of interests of all 
sorts, both Indian and British, which would have to be 
satisfied by any Indian Constitution which was to be 
more than an academic exercise, and was a reflection 
of the immense complexity of the problems to be solved. 
And, lastly, the proceedings of the Conference were to 
show how deep-seated were the differences thus repre- 
sented by its personnel. Nevertheless, November 12, 1930, 
when the Round Table Conference met for the first time 
to be inaugurated by King George V, was the most im- 
portant date so far recorded in the history of British 
India, for it was an open and irrevocable declaration that 
henceforth the political future of India was Ho longer to 

1 02 

The Round Table Conference 

be decided by the British Parliament alone, and that India 
must have a free and equal voice in its decision. It is true 
that the Statute embodying the Indian Constitution is 
an Act of the Imperial Parliament, and can be changed 
only by Parliament, but that is true also of the Canadian 
Constitution. There are practical reasons for the arrange- 
ment. In a word, the summoning of the Round Table 
Conference wiped out for ever the old tutelage of India. 
We have seen that the Conference did not open under 
anything like ideal auspices. The new wave of agitation 
that was sweeping over India, the absence of any repre- 
sentation of the Congress Party, the rising Hindu- 
Mohammedan enmity and the strengthening opposition, 
in certain quarters in Great Britain, to any important 
changes in the system of government in India, all com- 
bined to make the prospects unpromising and the outcome 
dubious. Important economic interests in Great Britain 
on the side of Labour as well as Capital viewed with 
deep suspicion any political changes which might lead 
to possible discrimination against British trade in India, 
and even in some circles favourable to Indian political 
aspirations there was growing disapproval of the excesses 
of civil disobedience in India. On the other hand, as 
news of the disturbances and the mass arrests in India 
came through to the delegates in London, many of them 
showed signs of allowing their natural feelings of resent- 
ment to influence their conduct at the Conference. In 
fact, when the delegates assembled in St. James's Palace 
for their first plenary session, there were few outside 
observers who would not have predicted a head-on 
collision between the British Government and a very 
strong section of the Indian representatives. In all pro- 
bability this collision would have occurred but for an 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

important development which had been proceeding 
quietly in India for some months, unknown to the general 
public and the casual observer. This development took 
the form of consultation and rapprochement between 
some of the Princes and the leaders of the Indian Liberals 
and Responsive Co-operators, leading in the end to an 
agreement on the broad principle of a federation, for 
certain specified purposes, between the Indian States and 
British India. It will be seen, therefore, that opinion in 
those quarters in India where faith was still placed in 
constitutional, as opposed to revolutionary, agitation 
had been moving on parallel lines to that of the members 
of the Statutory Commission, of Lord Irwin, and of many 
others who saw in the close union of the two Indias 
"Indian" India and British India a possible way of ad- 
vance which circumstances denied, for the present at any 
rate, to British India alone. The Maharajah of Bikanir's 
statement at the first plenary session of the Conference on 
November 17, 1930, that the Indian States could best 
make their contribution "to the greater contentment and 
prosperity of India as a whole . . . through a federal 
system of government composed of the States and British 
India," thus amounted to a political sensation of some 
magnitude, especially since it was joined to a declaration 
that the States would never federate with a government 
of British India which was responsible to the British 
Parliament. What the Maharajah, in fact, declared for 
was federation with a responsibly self-governing British 
India whose government should be subject only to such 
restrictions or safeguards as were necessary during a 
period of transition from one form and status of govern- 
ment to another. Every speaker who followed expressed 
his preference for the federal as opposed to. the unitary 


The Round Table Conference 

system of government for India, and practically every 
one of them admitted that with this new principle there 
had come new possibilities of wider and speedier solutions 
for some of the most difficult of all the problems arising 
out of the relations between India and Great Britain 
and between the different parts and interests of India 

But, of course, this alluring vision of an All-India 
Federation had to be translated into reality, and in 
turning their hands to this task, the Conference started 
out on a road whose end has not yet been reached. 

When the Conference concluded its first session on 
January 19, 1931, its nine sub-committees on the Federal 
Structure, the Provincial Constitution, Minorities, Burma, 
The North-West Frontier Province, Franchise, Defence, 
The Services, and Sind, had done an immense amount of 
valuable spade-work and had reached agreement on a 
number of points of detail. But in two particulars, and 
these were literally fundamental particulars, nothing had 
been accomplished. The first of these related to the prin- 
ciples and conditions in which the All-India Federation 
would be based. They were left in the air, and the pro- 
posed Federation was still left as the mere project of a 
Federation. The second of these two fundamentals, on 
which, indeed, the first largely depended, was the com- 
munal and minority question. So far from the Conference's 
having advanced nearer to a solution of the formidable 
problems presented by the minorities, these problems had 
grown apparently even more intractable, so much so, 
that in the report of the sub-committee on Federal 
Structure we read that the leading Mohammedan spokes- 
men could not consent finally to frame any Constitution 
unless the JHindu-Muslim question was settled. And it 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

was not only the Hindu-Muslim side of the communal 
and minority problem which had grown more acute. 
The untouchables had found able leaders and had 
advanced their claims in a determined fashion, whilst 
the Sikhs in the Punjab laid down certain demands to 
which they adhered with traditional stubbornness. 

Of the constructive work achieved at the first session 
of the Conference, the most important was the general 
agreement on the principle of fully representative govern- 
ment in the Governors' provinces, subject to the retention 
by the Governors of certain powers which most of the 
delegates admitted to be necessary at the present stage. 
A wide measure of agreement was reached on the vexed 
questions of the North- West Frontier Province and Sind, 
on measures for speeding up the "Indianization" of the 
Indian Army and for the future of the great Civil Services 
in India, and a statement was made of the specific problems 
to be settled by a Franchise Committee which the Con- 
ference agreed should be set up. Moreover, in his speech 
adjourning the session on January 19, 1934, the Prime 
Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, laid down clearly the 
British policy towards India, a policy which has been 
repeatedly re-affirmed by his successors. "The attitude of 
the British Government, 55 he said, ". . . is nothing more 
than an overwhelming desire to leave you to settle your 
own affairs. . . . Our one ambition is that, being in a 
sense kith and kindred with you (since history, whether 
you liked it or whether we liked it, has woven our destinies 
somehow together), we may use that unity with you in 
order to pave your way and smooth your path to that 
much-required internal unity amongst yourselves. 55 On 
the very important matter of safeguards, Mr. MacDonald 
told the delegates that this fell into three classes. The first 

1 06 

The Round Table Conference 

being constitutional safeguards such as an Indian Con- 
stituent Assembly itself would have to write into its own 
Constitution. The second, such as those connected with 
the Services and Finance, was necessary as much 
for foreign confidence in India as on account of con- 
ditions in the country at the present time, whilst the 
third class, those relating to the minority communities, 
could be abrogated at any time by Indians themselves. 
Finally, in set terms, Mr. MacDonald announced that 
"with a Legislature constituted on a federal basis, His 
Majesty's Government will be prepared to recognize 
the principle of the responsibility of the Executive to the 

On their return to India, the delegates found that the 
general political outlook seemed more promising than 
for some months past, since Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi 
were about to discuss personally the conditions on which 
the Civil Disobedience movement could be ended and 
the Congress Party be drawn into participation in the 
constitutional movement for political progress embodied 
in the Round Table Conference. They came to an agree- 
ment at the beginning of March the so-called "Irwin- 
Gandhi Pact" according to which Civil Disobedience, 
the boycott of British goods, and all forms of picketing 
except those allowed by law would end and Congress 
would be represented at the Round Table Conference. 
It was further agreed that the large numbers of persons 
arrested for complicity in the disturbances attendant on 
Civil Disobedience would be released except those guilty 
of violent offences. It was agreed also that public servants 
who had been dismissed from their posts on account of 
their attitude towards Civil Disobedience should be 
restored. For a time, this pact served the purpose of 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

restoring order and tranquillity out of the widespread 
disorder and lawlessness of the preceding months, but this 
state of affairs was short-lived. There were elements in 
the Indian internal situation which were not amenable 
to any such agreements as this. Terrorism was rife in 
Bengal where political murders and attempted murders 
were taking place. Even in the Punjab an attempt was 
made to murder the Governor, Sir Geoffrey de Mont- 
morency, and elsewhere in India Congress agents were 
using agrarian distress to foment unrest among the 
peasantry and tenants. It was inevitable that the less 
responsible members of the Congress Party should claim 
the pact as a victory for themselves, and it was not very 
long before provincial governments had to take action 
once more against disturbers of the peace. This led to 
charges of breach of the pact by the provincial govern- 
ments and so the situation began once more to deteriorate. 
Nevertheless, during the brief lull of the pact, the All-India 
National Congress ratified the pact unanimously and Mr. 
Gandhi decided to represent the Congress at the second 
session of the Round Table Conference which opened in 
September 1931. 

But, whilst this uneasy equilibrium had been reached 
between the Government and Congress, Hindu-Moham- 
medan relations became definitely worse. The deep breach 
which had been revealed by the proceedings of the 
Federal Structure Sub-Committee of the Round Table 
Conference had given added strength to Mohammedan 
demands for safeguards, and the Irwin-Gandhi pact filled 
them with suspicions that the predominantly Hindu 
Congress had been put in a specially privileged position. 
Within three weeks of the conclusion of the pact, fierce 
Hindu-Mohammedan rioting broke out at Cawnpore, 
and when, in April, Mr. Gandhi announced that while 


The Round Table Conference 

Congress would willingly concede Mohammedan demands, 
those demands must be made by Mohammedans as a 
whole, the strain became increasingly acute. For, to 
Mohammedans, this announcement appeared as an 
attempt to force Mohammedans to concede the crucial 
principle of joint, as opposed to communal, electorates, 
by insisting on giving the small minority of Mohammedan 
Congressmen the same weight and importance as the 
overwhelming majority of their co-religionists who had 
refused to compromise on this subject of joint electorates. 
It is from this time that Mohammedan opinion began to 
turn with increasing momentum against the whole con- 
ception of democratic government based on majority rule, 
since they knew that they would always be outnumbered 
by the Hindus, and they feared that they would be con- 
sistently outvoted. Since 1931, this rejection of responsible 
self-government for India based on majority control has 
grown, as we shall see, into a cardinal rule of Mohammedan 
policy. Another complication in Hindu-Mohammedan 
relations came from a conference of Punjab and Frontier 
Hindus held in May at which full expression was given 
to the fears of those Hindus whose homes were in these 
two provinces of predominantly Mohammedan popula- 
tion. The Sikhs, too, became more urgent in their claims 
for both protective safeguards and for specific recognition 
of the importance of their community in the Punjab, an 
importance which, they claimed, was out of all proportion 
to their numbers. 

Nevertheless, the second session of the Round Table 
Conference opened, as arranged, in London in September. 
It was a disappointing affair for everything was forced to 
wait on attempts to arrange a settlement of the minorities 
problem by. agreement. The most important aspect of the 
problem was, of course, that of Hindu and Mohammedan 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

relations, but the Sikhs forced their claims into the fore- 
front of the discussion and the depressed classes showed 
more initiative and determination than ever before. Mr. 
Gandhi and the Aga Khan played the leading parts in 
the continuous negotiations which went on, but as the 
second session drew to its close, they were forced to admit 
that there was no chance of a settlement by agreement, 
and the whole session was, therefore, a complete failure 
so far as its main object was concerned, namely, to settle 
the structure of the All-India Federation, and to enable 
the Indian States to settle among themselves their place 
in the Federation and their mutual relations inside it. 
In adjourning the second session, Mr. MacDonald 
announced that unless Indians themselves could present 
a settlement acceptable to all parties, then His Majesty's 
Government would have to apply a provisional scheme 
drawn up in London. 

In the end, this had to be done. The third session of 
the Round Table Conference which was held from Novem- 
ber i yth to December 24, 1932, was concerned mostly 
with such highly technical problems as the form of the 
Indian States Instruments of Accession to the Federation, 
administrative relations between the Federal Centre 
and the Units, and other such matters. The broader 
problems and issues of Indian politics did not come before 
the greatly reduced number of delegates. It was in 1932 
that the British Government announced its "communal 
decision." No attempt was made in it to settle all the small 
points in dispute between the various communities, but 
it was not confined only to the dispute between Hindus 
and Mohammedans. It dealt entirely with the repre- 
sentation of the various communities and interests in the 
Provincial Legislatures with the exception of Burma 
and it made clear the fact that its terms could be at any 


The Round Table Conference 

time replaced by those of an agreed settlement made by 
the different communities themselves. Broadly speaking, 
the communal decision laid down that in all the pro- 
vinces except Bengal, the Punjab and the North-West 
Frontier Province, Hindus were in the majority and there- 
fore Mohammedan representation in the Provincial 
Legislatures should be suitably weighted. In the three 
provinces named above, the Mohammedan ratio of rep- 
resentation was to be scaled down somewhat so as to 
make the discrepancy between them and the Hindus less 

Inevitably, the decision did not satisfy any of the 
parties, neither Hindus, Mohammedans, Sikhs, or De- 
pressed Classes. The Mohammedans were the least dis- 
satisfied, but the Depressed Classes got the decision modi- 
fied in their favour by a curious development. They had 
been given 71 seats to be decided in separate communal 
electorates and Mr. Gandhi threatened to fast to death 
unless this separate representation, which he regarded 
as violent separation of the Depressed Classes from the 
Hindu fold, was abolished. After much discussion with 
Hindu leaders, the Depressed Classes agreed to accept 
148 in lieu of the original 71, these 148 to be decided by 
joint Hindu-Depressed Classes electorates subject to a 
system of primary election in which voters of the Depressed 
Classes formed an electoral college to choose a panel of 

The Round Table Conference had thus given birth to 
the project of a Federation of All-India and it had done 
much excellent work in hammering out and getting 
agreement on a host of technical and not unduly contro- 
versial parts of the Federal structure. But the crucial 
problems of the terms on which the Indian States were to 
enter the Federation, and acceptable safeguards for 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

minority interests were still unresolved. It was left to 
the British Government to do its best in these regards 
when it came to draw up its plan of political progress 
for India based on the work of the Round Table 



The Government of India Act, 


ONE of the most striking and significant features of all 
three sessions of the Round Table Conference was the 
fact that some of the most dangerous conflicts of interest 
arose not between the representatives of Great Britain 
and India, but between the different interests and com- 
munities represented by the Indian delegates themselves. 
We have seen how, for example, the communal question 
prevented the Conference from working out the structure 
of the Federation. Similarly, there were numerous and 
important clashes between the representatives of British 
India and of the Indian States, and in all these sharp 
disagreements it was the British Government which sought 
to play the role of arbiter. This has been the role of the 
British Government throughout the succeeding years, 
and it is against the background of this broad considera- 
tion that we look at the developments of 1932 to 1940 in 
India. The existence of these formidable differences 
between the various communities and interests of India 
is, of course, no reproach to the peoples of India. They 
are due to historic causes and accidents. The Mogul 
Empire in India, of which the British are the heirs and 
successors, was as artificial and, in its decay, as ram- 
shackle a thing as the Holy Roman Empire towards the 
end of the eighteenth century and, had it simply fallen 
to pieces in the hands of the feeble successors of Aurangzeb, 

113 H 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

there is not the slightest doubt that India would have 
become the scene of internecine warfare as prolonged, as 
desperate, and as ruinous as the wars which tore Europe 
between the opening of the Thirty Years War and Water- 
loo. In the middle of the eighteenth century, when the 
British began to acquire their rule over the country, the 
internal destruction of India was well under way in the 
Carnatic, the Deccan, and the North and East. But two 
centuries of strong centralized rule by the British have 
done as much as any external influence can possibly do 
to make one nation out of a number of heterogeneous and 
even warring peoples. There is, in fact, good reason to 
hope that India may never have to pass through the fearful 
ordeal of civil war, since it is to the interest of all con- 
cerned to retain the Pax Britannica until the interests 
and ideals of all the peoples of India have become suffi- 
ciently homogeneous to enable essential changes and 
adjustments to be made peacefully, thus rendering the 
actual control of the government to the country by the 
British no longer necessary. This is the reason why, during 
the last three decades, every outbreak of extremism or 
violence in India has invariably led, sooner or later, to a 
split even in the ranks of the extremists themselves. This 
is the reason also why every invitation to Indian political 
leaders to take and exercise more power has produced a 
favourable response even from among the ranks of the 
left wing itself. No better illustration of the truth of this 
can be given then the action of practically every one of the 
leading Nationalist politicians in condemning the "inde- 
pendence" resolution submitted to the All-India National 
Congress at Lahore in 1929 and trying to get it with- 
drawn or defeated. 

Thus, it was only to be expected that as Dominion Status 
or to use a simpler and more generally understood 


The Government of India Act, 7955 

expression home rule for India approached ever more 
closely, ancient and deeply rooted differences between 
the various communities, and, even, regions, of the 
country should rouse themselves into activity again, often 
in new and very threatening forms. This renewed activity 
is an inevitable part of India's political metabolism, a 
form of growing pains, but it is as well that all students of 
Indian affairs should understand clearly its character and 
scope, so that they might understand the importance and 
danger and, also, the potential creative opportunities 
of what is happening in Indian politics now. For the 1935 
Government of India Act which was the outcome of the 
Round Table Conference, has brought the peoples of 
India face to face with the necessity of themselves taking 
certain steps essential to the formation of an Indian 
nation, of which the Federation would be the visible 
political embodiment, steps which nobody else could take 
for them. 

The point has been reached at which the primary 
function of the British Government is to guarantee the 
Pax Britannica within which Indians of all creeds and 
races, and of all parts and provinces, may peacefully 
work out their own destiny. Such, then, is the situation 
created by the 1935 Act. 

The provisions of the Act mirror the proceedings of 
the Round Table Conference and thus faithfully reflect 
the considerations discussed above. In the first place it 
was compelled to continue, for the time being at any rate, 
the partition of India into the two major divisions of 
British India and the Indian States. And, secondly, all 
the provisions for minority safeguards were the work of 
the British Government. They were not the embodi- 
ment of a free and binding agreement among the various 
communities and interests concerned. The views of His 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

Majesty's Government and their proposals for the new 
Constitution of India were first published in a White 
Paper in March 1933. These proposals followed closely 
the discussions and decisions of the Round Table Con- 
ference and contained no novelties. It was clear, too, 
that the new Government of India Act, when it came to 
be drafted, would not depart materially either from the 
decisions of the Round Table Conference or the White 
Paper. Nor did it. 

The White Paper and the Act approached the All-India 
Federation in two stages. The first stage, to be completed 
as soon as possible, consisted in the setting up of auto- 
nomous governments in all the provinces of British India, 
including two newly created provinces, namely, Sind, 
which was cut out of the Bombay Presidency, and Orissa, 
detached from the former province of Bihar and Orissa. 
The second stage would be the federation of these eleven 
British provinces with the Indian States after agreement 
had been reached between the Princes and the suzerain 
power concerning the terms on which the Princes would 
come into the Federation. A series of safeguards marked 
each stage of the progress. In the first stage, the creation 
of autonomous provinces, the Governor of the province 
was vested with extraordinary powers to overrule the 
Provincial Cabinet in certain circumstances. These cir- 
cumstances would arise, for example, whenever the 
Governor should deem it necessary to act against the 
advice, of his Cabinet in matters affecting the peace and 
security of the province, or to protect the interests of a 
minority. At the centre, when the Federation should come 
into existence, the Viceroy was to have special powers 
and responsibilities with regard to preventing grave 
menace to the peace of India, defence, foreign policy, 
the safeguarding of financial stability, and the safe- 


The Government of India Act, 

guarding of the interests of minorities. Until the All- 
India Federation came into existence, the Central Govern- 
ment and Legislature of the country were to remain 
as they were, that is, the Government of India was to 
remain non-responsible to the Legislature, and the latter 
was to have no more than the powers of criticism and 
interpellation which it already possessed. Thus, whilst 
the provinces would be governed by all but fully respon- 
sible governments, the Central Government was to remain 
static during the interval however long it might be 
that must elapse between the coming into operation of 
the first and the second stages of the 1935 Act. 

It will be seen that the scope of the measure fell short of 
Dominion Status for India as that term has been under- 
stood since the Statute of Westminster. This was the 
status which practically every Indian delegate claimed at 
the Round Table Conference, and although Mr. Gandhi, 
representing the All-India National Congress, spoke of 
"independence," it was certain that many, even of his 
Congress colleagues, had Dominion Status as their imme- 
diate goal. But not only was the setting up of a federal 
government, limited as it was by the 1935 Act, postponed 
to some future date which, it was hoped, would be soon, 
but was, in fact, indefinite, but even provincial autonomy 
was limited by safeguards. It is true that these safeguards 
were not part of the normal working of the Constitution, 
and were for use only in emergencies which 
arise. Nevertheless, they were seen as 
the freedom of action of the provinc 
even, in some quarters, as proofs that 
were not to be trusted to handle their 

Undoubtedly, the publication of the 
caused disappointment in most q 
except by certain elements on the 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

politics, this disappointment was not expressed with 
violence or anger. On the contrary, the debates in both 
the Central and Provincial Legislatures, though severely 
critical, kept well within constitutional limits and actually 
offered many constructive suggestions. The safeguards 
were the principal target of attack, and the retention of 
control over the Indian Civil and Police Services by the 
Secretary of State and the slowness of the Indianization 
of the Army came in for special criticism also. In fact, 
none of the Legislatures wished to reject the scheme as a 
whole. Outside the Legislature, however, expression of 
opinion was, naturally, less restrained and responsible. 
Congress spokesmen wanted to reject the whole scheme of 
reform, and even the Liberals in their annual session at 
Calcutta on April iyth denounced the safeguards as not 
in India's interests and as a denial of constitutional 

The Joint Select Committee and the Government of 
India Bill provided yet one more opportunity for the 
advocacy of claims by the various communities and 
interests in India and Great Britain. Full advantage was 
taken of this opportunity by all concerned and the pro- 
ceedings of the Committee were particularly long and 
detailed. It was not to be expected, however, that any 
major changes would be made in the provisions of the 
Bill, and its main structure emerged from the Committee 
in the shape in which it was entered. But His Majesty's 
Government, at all stages, continued its efforts to bring 
about agreement between communal and sectional 
interests and in particular to clarify its attitude towards 
the widespread Indian demand that the new Constitution 
should give India Dominion Status. For reasons already 
detailed, all of them referring to internal conditions in 
India, it was not found possible to meet this demand imme- 


The Government of India Act, 

diately and completely, but it was decided to state un- 
equivocally that the goal of India's political progress was 
Dominion Status. The Joint Select Committee enquiry 
provided yet one more, and possibly the last, occasion 
for a big clash between the basic ideals of Indian 
Nationalists and other opponents in India and in this 
country, and the fight was continued in Parliament and 
in India right up to the passing of the Act and the royal 
assent to it on August 2, 1935. 

Thereafter, broadly speaking, the struggle between the 
British and Indian Governments on the one hand and the 
more extreme exponents of Indian Nationalist opinion on 
the other may be said to have fallen into abeyance until 
the bringing into force of the Government of India Act 
in 1937. The new wave of civil disturbance which flared 
up after Mr. Gandhi's return from the Round Table 
Conference and his arrest had spent its force by the end 
of 1934, and on the main political front there was quiet 
in India. But behind the main political battlefield, so to 
speak, the dispositions of the various contending parties 
steadily began to assume sharper and clearer outlines and 
fell into the patterns which lasted until the outbreak of 
the war in September 1939. 

Thus all those who stood for political progress by con- 
stitutional methods an indeterminate and not very 
aggressive body, but, nevertheless, one which is very 
strong numerically, a body partly represented by the 
Indian Liberal Federation realized and proclaimed that 
further opposition to the new Constitution was futile, 
and leading spokesmen of the Indian Liberal Federation 
openly urged the Nationalists on their left to accept and 
work the Constitution so as to get what was possible out 
of it. Looking back over the Indian scene of the past 
few years, it seems that this centre point of view has gained 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

steadily increasing support, and many of what the 
Marxists would call the "bourgeois" element in the 
Indian National Congress are now ranged with this 
centre body. Once more, from 1934 onwards, Congress 
began to break up into rival groups as the possibilities of 
the new Constitution showed themselves, and the natural 
instinct to accept and use power which was offered to 
them worked on the minds of the political leaders of the 
different sections of opinion in the country. Moreover, 
there was something impressive in the extensive prepara- 
tions which went on for the forthcoming extensive con- 
stitutional changes. The delimitation of constituencies 
proceeded actively in 1935, and Sir Otto Niemeyer, the 
financial expert of world-wide repute, was invited to 
examine the budgetary position of the Central and 
Provincial Governments, and the principles of assignment 
of financial resources between them. The Government 
departments were working at full pressure on all sorts of 
detailed arrangements for putting the new Government 
pf India Act into operation, and altogether by 1935 the 
observer at a distance might have been pardoned for 
assuming that the achievement of the much desired All- 
India Federation was only a matter of time, and a short 
time at that. 

But unfortunately, a closer study of the situation 
led to doubts concerning this optimistic view. Inter- 
communal antagonism took on a wider and deeper 
aspect, challenging the basic principles on which the 
Federation was to be based, and from the side of the 
Princes also there were signs that opposition to early 
entry into the Federation was growing. Already in 1935, 
at meetings of the Princes, demands were being made for 
satisfactory modifications and alterations in fundamental 

1 20 

The Government of India Act, 

The prospects of Federation became more and more 
doubtful as time went on until by the outbreak of war in 
September 1939 it was already clear that a dangerous, 
if not a complete impasse, had been reached. There was 
no immediate prospect of a solution of the very difficult 
problems raised by the entry of the Princes into the 
Federation, whilst the demands of the Mohammedans 
had gone to the length of visualizing a Mohammedan 
India, separate from Hindu India. Moreover, partisan 
fervour was increasing rather than decreasing when the 
great catastrophe in Europe put the whole question of 
India's political future into a new perspective. 



WITHIN a few days of the outbreak of war this new per- 
spective was given by a declaration of the All-India 
National Congress that it could give whole-hearted support 
to Great Britain in the war only after India had become a 
sovereign autonomous nation. It was quite clear that the 
great majority of the members of the All-India National 
Congress fully sympathized with Great Britain and the 
British Dominions and, so far from wishing to hinder 
them, were ready and even anxious to help them in their 
war effort. This was true of every other major section of 
opinion in India. 

The Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, got into touch imme- 
diately with the leaders of all sections of organized 
political opinion in the country and had full and frank 
discussions with them. It was clear, however, from the 
reports of these meetings which came through to the 
public that the All-India National Congress, the Moham- 
medans and the Princes were not prepared to alter in 
any material points the position which they had already 
taken up. Accordingly, in a White Paper published at 
Delhi on October i8th, Lord Linlithgow stated that no 
major constitutional development could take place in 
India during the war. In taking this view he was sup- 
ported by Lord Zetland, Secretary of State for India. 

1 The author gratefully acknowledges the permission given him 
to reproduce some passages in this chapter from an article con- 
tributed to Foreign Affairs in January, 1940. 


The Viceroy did, however, promise that there would be 
full consultation with all sections of Indian opinion after 
the war, if this should be found necessary and desirable, 
and that in the meantime he was arranging for a con- 
sultative body representative of Indian opinion generally 
to be associated with him during the war. 

This announcement did not satisfy Congress. Mr. 
Gandhi described it as profoundly disappointing, while 
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru more forcibly described it as 
spurning the hand of friendship extended by Congress 
to the British Government. Mr. Gandhi said that the 
Viceroy's statement simply shows that the old policy of 
divide and rule is to continue. The Working Committee 
of Congress followed these words by demanding that the 
governments in those provinces where the Congress Party 
was in power should resign. Accordingly, the Ministries 
resigned in Madras, Bombay, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, the 
Central Provinces, the United Provinces, and the North- 
West Frontier Province. As circumstances made it im- 
possible to form alternative governments, the administra- 
tion was carried on by officials, as provided by the 
Government of India Act of 1935. However, anxious 
efforts to reach an agreement continued to be made on 
both sides ; and there was no wish to exploit the situation 
by calling on Congress to practise Civil Disobedience. 

In Great Britain, too, there was much support for the 
demand that the British Government's views on India's 
future should be clarified. In the House of Commons on 
October 26th, Mr. Wedgwood Benn, speaking for the 
Labour Party, asked for a clear answer to Mr. Gandhi's 
questions about British war aims and India's share in 
the freedom for which the British Empire was fighting. 
Sir Samuel -Hoare, replying for the Government, stated 
unequivocally that full Dominion Status for India was 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

the aim of British policy, and that the Viceroy desired to 
take Indian political leaders fully into his confidence. 

Such was the course of the opening exchanges in the 
latest phase of the continuing problem of India's political 
future, and succeeding events to the Autumn of 1940 
have not materially altered the fundamentals of the 
problem which faces the British Government and the 
Princes and peoples of India. We have seen that two main 
subsidiary problems were impeding the solution of the 
great political problem at the outbreak of war, namely, 
the position of the Indian Princes, and secondly, the 
divergent social, religious, and political interests of the 
Hindu and Moslem communities. We have seen also that 
just before the outbreak of war the Princes had declared 
in 1939 that the terms offered to induce them to enter 
into the Federation were "fundamentally unsound," 
whilst the Mohammedans were in something approxi- 
mating to open revolt against the scheme. It is well, 
therefore, that we should understand the reasons which 
led these two great parties to the proposed Federation to 
take up their intransigent position. 

The great Indian Princes at present enjoy full domestic 
sovereignty, and they naturally hesitate to surrender any 
material part of this. For example, they do not want their 
states overrun by Federal agents, their law courts sub- 
ordinated to British Indian courts, or their resources put 
at the disposal of any external authority. Above all, they 
do not want to have the control over constitutional reforms 
in their states taken from their hands or their relations 
with their own people influenced from outside. If they 
could be certain that their present privileges would always 
be guaranteed by the British Crown, many of their fears 
would vanish. But suppose theBritish Crown was replaced at 
some future date by an autonomous Indian Government. 


Could they then be as certain of the sanctity of their 

Again, as they looked at British India, the Princes saw 
the overwhelming political supremacy of the Congress 
Party. Of the eleven British provinces, eight had Congress 
governments at the outbreak of war. Now the antagonism 
between the Congress Party and the Indian Princes is 
bitter and of long standing. As long ago as 1922, Lord 
Reading had to use the extraordinary powers vested in 
him as Viceroy to protect the Princes from the flood of 
vilification constantly directed against them, both as an 
order and as individuals, from left-wing quarters in 
British India. Since the inauguration of the 1935 Act, 
the Congress Party had carried on a ceaseless campaign 
against the Princes and had intervened directly in State 
politics by demanding that the Princes undertook political 
reforms aimed at giving public opinion in their states a 
decisive voice in government. Congress, of course, wanted 
these reforms carried out under its supervision. Mr. 
Gandhi's personal intervention in the affairs of Rajkot 
state in March 1939, his threat to fast to death, and the 
subsequent intervention of the Viceroy, were the most 
dramatic and publicized events in this campaign. But in 
many other states the intervention of Congress agents 
had resulted in various forms of disorder. 

The population of the Indian states constitute only 
about one fifth of the population of India. Thus, even 
though their representation in the Federal Legislature 
and Government was to be weighted in their favour, they 
would always be in a definite minority. In the upper 
house of the Federal Legislature they would have 40 per 
cent of the seats ; but in the lower house, which would 
inevitably be the more important, they would have only 
33 per cent. If, therefore, the Princes believed that the 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

Congress Party was destined to retain its predominant 
position in British India and to maintain its antagonistic 
attitude towards the princely order, they would most 
likely continue to look askance at Federation. 

The opposition of the Mohammedans to Federation 
was no less formidable than that of the Princes. The 
Mohammedans are, of course, in a minority, but as there 
are nearly 90 millions of them, their position is very 
different from that of an ordinary minority. Since the 
inauguration of provincial autonomy, Mohammedan 
opposition to Federation has grown steadily stronger. 
Put quite simply, the Muslims' position is that Federation 
would place them in a status of hopeless inferiority in the 
Federal Government, vis-d-vis the Hindus, since the great 
majority of the Indian states are Hindu. Mohammedan 
spokesmen say that wherever there was a Congress 
government, Mohammedans were oppressed because the 
personnel of the Congress Party was almost exclusively 
Hindu. Their opposition to the present proposals for 
Federation has not stopped at words, for there had been 
outbreaks of rioting during the few months before the 

In weighing the prospects for Federation the actual 
working of provincial autonomy has to be examined 
that part of the 1935 Act which was brought into force 
in 1937. Under this Act the electoral basis of the Pro- 
vincial Legislatures was immensely widened as compared 
with the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919, which 
the present Constitution superseded the electorate was 
multiplied about fivefold, so that there were between 
35 and 40 million voters in British India. The ministries 
in the provinces, which were chosen on the usual parlia- 
mentary principle, now had complete control over all 
subjects of provincial administration, subject only to 


certain special powers vested in the provincial Governor, 
which until the crisis of 1939 were practically unused. 
There was, in fact, a rather striking analogy between 
the position of a provincial ministry in India and in 
Canada. On the other hand, the Indian provincial 
ministry was more independent of its Central Government 
than was its counterpart in South Africa. In a word, 
parliaments and responsible governments were set up 
in the eleven provinces of British India. 

After the general elections in 1937, at which the 
Congress Party was returned to power in eight provinces, 
there was at first some doubt as to whether they would 
accept the responsibility conferred upon them by the 
electorate, and a dangerous deadlock threatened for some 
time. However, these doubts were eventually dispelled 
and "provincial autonomy" started on its career towards 
the end of that year. Even so, there were still some 
extreme elements in the Party which announced that, 
although they were prepared to sit in the Provincial Legis- 
lature and even loin provincial Cabinets, they did so 
only in pursuance of the old Congress ideal of wrecking 
the reforms from within. It need hardly be said that a 
provincial Cabinet containing a sprinkling of avowed 
wreckers would not constitute a particularly good 
administration, unless the Prime Minister happened to 
be a man of extraordinary force and skill. 

There were other possible sources of trouble. Practically 
all the Congress election manifestos had contained 
sweeping promises of social and economic amelioration, 
and the Congress voters, having put their men in power, 
naturally looked to them for an early fulfilment of these 
pledges. Further, the Congress Party had long engaged 
in active, often violent, agitation against the constituted 
government. It was hard for the rank and file to realize 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

that they themselves had created the new provincial 
governments, and they continued to organize anti- 
government activities in various provinces. In some 
provinces the Congress governments thus had to face 
riots, strikes, and various other outbreaks. Also, many 
of the Congress Ministers took office suspicious of their 
Governors, and of the great imperial services, particularly 
the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police, whom, 
hitherto, they had regarded as their natural enemies. 
Though these doubts did not entirely die away, the loyal 
acceptance of the new conditions by the services reduced 
the Ministers' suspicions to a point where they no longer 
formed a serious feature in the political situation. 

Side by side with these potential causes of danger were 
other factors which encouraged a more optimistic view 
of the future of the new Constitution. From the moment 
the Congress leaders began to talk about refusing to take 
up the power which they had won at the elections, a 
marked and serious cleavage of opinion arose in their 
ranks. Some leaders were determined, if necessary, to 
accept office even in defiance of the orders of Mr. Gandhi 
and of the Party executive. Similar cleavages took place, 
one in 1926 when an influential section of the Party 
declared openly that it would no longer participate in 
the policy of wrecking the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms 
from within, and in 1924, when the late Mr. C. R. Das 
defeated Mr. Gandhi on the question of entry into Mon- 
tagu-Chelmsford Legislatures. In short, whenever the 
Congress Party has been given an opportunity for con- 
structive work and for the exercise of effective political 
power, there has always been an influential section ready 
to undertake the work and to use the power. In provinces 
like Madras and Bombay these sections were particularly 
strong, and in certain other provinces they were strong 



enough to maintain ministries in opposition to the 
governing caucus of the Congress Party. 

The outstanding fact about the working of the 1935 
Act in the provinces was, then, that it had worked. It had 
been widely feared that in the all-important field of law 
and order the new ministries would come to grief. Some 
justification for this foreboding was found in February 
1938 almost before the new governments had got into 
their stride when the Congress ministries in Bihar and 
the United Provinces arranged for the release of prisoners 
who had been convicted of "political" offences during 
the previous regime. This was certainly the sort of con- 
tingency envisaged when the provincial Governors were 
given their special powers. Yet it could easily be seen 
how dangerous would have been a simple uncompromising 
refusal by the Governors to allow their Prime Ministers 
to have their way. The Working Committee of Congress 
would have exploited the situation to the full, and in the 
passions which would have been aroused the nascent 
Constitution might quite conceivably have perished. 

Happily, the crisis was handled with considerable skill 
by the Viceroy. His efforts, it must be acknowledged, 
were supported by the moderation and sense of realities 
displayed by the Prime Ministers in the two provinces 
and by many of their colleagues. The two Governors were 
directed by the Viceroy to refuse to agree to a general 
and indiscriminate release of all political prisoners. 
Naturally this led their Prime Ministers to tender their 
resignations. But it was obvious that scope was still left 
for negotiations. After a short period of anxious consulta- 
tions it was agreed that the Governors would follow their 
Prime Ministers' advice in regard to a number of cases 
which had already been under examination, and that 
the cases of all other political prisoners should be examined 

129 i 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

individually on their merits. In Bengal, too, the ancient 
problem of political detenus, which had already caused 
as much trouble as any other single question in post-war 
Indian politics, was brought to an end during 1938 by 
the release of the men detained. A less severe crisis arose 
in May 1938 in Orissa, where the Congress Party success- 
fully opposed the appointment of a senior civil servant 
to act as Governor while the regular Governor was on 
leave. Here, again, an unpleasant situation threatened 
for a time, but the worst was avoided by the obvious desire 
of all concerned to prevent a breakdown. 

In the general field of maintenance of law and order, 
the Congress governments of Bombay and the United 
Provinces settled strikes at important industrial centre's 
by direct intervention, while the governments of other 
provinces had not hesitated to crush violent outbreaks 
of lawlessness by force. Also, during the two years following 
the inauguration of the Act every provincial ministry 
was able to enact a good deal of valuable social and 
economic legislation. All of which was a message of good 
promise for the future even though it did not justify too 
easy an optimism. 

Since the end of 1939 the Congress demand has been 
before the Viceroy of India and the British Government, 
and as the months have passed the sympathy of the great 
mass of the Indian peoples with their fellow citizens of 
Great Britain and the British Dominions has, if anything, 
grown stronger. Schemes for greatly expanding the 
Indian Army and Air Force have met with ready response, 
and the Working Committee of the All-India National 
Congress has even gone to the length of opposing Mr. 
Gandhi openly, and abrogating its basic policy of non- 
violence so far as resistance to aggressors is concerned. 
Throughout these month* there was no danger of civil 


disturbance or any other sort of direct action from the 
side of the All-India National Congress, but whilst the 
Congress demand was unsatisfied its leaders found them- 
selves unable to throw themselves whole-heartedly into 
the struggle on the side of the Government, and this in 
turn has led to a breach in the unity of the country. In 
an effort to close this breach and unite all India in a 
national effort against the aggressor states an effort 
which, as we have seen, the country was ready to under- 
take the British Government made a further declaration 
through the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, on August 8, 1940. 
In this declaration His Majesty's Government stated that 
whilst they cannot leave their present responsibilities 
for the peace and welfare of India to any system of 
government whose authority is denied by large and power- 
ful elements in India's national life, they have decided 
to do what they can to create the conditions for a united 
national effort in the war. Therefore, they authorize the 
Viceroy to invite a number of representative Indians to 
join his Executive Council. Further, he is authorized to 
establish a War Advisory Council to meet at regular 
intervals and to have representatives in it of the Indian 
states and of other interests in the national life of India 
as a whole. The statement also looks to the future and 
deals with the All-India Congress demand that the 
framing of the system of India's future government should 
be first and foremost the responsibility of Indians them- 
selves. The British Government proclaim their sympathy 
with this demand and say that they wish to see it given 
the fullest practical expression, subject to the due fulfil- 
ment of the obligations which Great Britain's long 
connection with India has imposed on her. In order to 
give practical effect to this sympathy the British Govern- 
ment agree to setting up after the end of the war, with 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

the least possible delay, a fully representative Indian 
body to work out the framework of the new Constitution. 
They will do all they can to speed up decisions made by 
this body, and, in the meantime, they will not only 
welcome, but they will help on in every possible way, 
every sincere and practical step that representative Indians 
themselves may take to come to a free agreement upon 
the form of this post-war representative body, and the 
lines on which it should work, and also upon the principles 
and outlines of the Constitution itself. 

This declaration is in line with all British Imperial 
history. The political Constitutions of the great Dominions 
have, in every case, been the result of settlement by agree- 
ment between the different races, communities, and 
interests involved. In no case has there been coercion 
from outside or settlement by a mere majority vote inside. 
Indian conditions make this procedure more desirable 
than ever in her case. The traditional, ideological, and, 
in some respects, even material interests of the different 
races and communities, foredoom to failure any enforced 
agreement between them, or one based on the purely 
mechanical principle of majority vote. 

Again, the whole historic background, as well as the 
personal and political interests, of the Indian Princes 
make any agreement other than a fully voluntary one 
between them and the other parties to an Indian Federa- 
tion and Federal Government not only an unreal and 
transient thing, but something fraught with actual danger 
for the future. 

The reception of the offer of August 8th by the various 
interests in British India illustrates these considerations 
clearly. Congress rejected the offer without consideration, 
the President of Congress declining to discuss -it with the 
Viceroy. The reason for this peremptory rejection was 


that Congress stands firm on its demand for an unqualified 
acceptance by the British Government of Indian indepen- 
dence, with its corollary of a government of India con- 
ceived and controlled by Congress. As we have seen, 
this attitude maintains in all their old strength, and in 
their most formidable and uncompromising shape, those 
fundamental obstacles to Indian national unity which 
we have already considered. The other interests involved, 
namely, the Muslim League and the Indian Mahasbha, 
whilst accepting in principle the proposals contained in 
the offer, were unable to accept them in detail. The Muslim 
League wanted more places on the Viceroy's Executive 
Council than he was prepared to concede, and, further, 
its leaders demanded certain important guarantees for 
the future, in case the Congress leaders changed their 
mind and decided to join the Executive Council later. 
These guarantees the Viceroy felt himself unable to give. 
The Mahasbha, on the other hand, put their claims high 
in order to counter the Mahommedans, with the result 
that it was impossible to put the proposals into effect. 
It would, of course, have been possible for Lord Linlithgow 
to expand his Council by the addition to its numbers 
of some Indians of standing and experience, but this would 
not have met the needs and desires of either the British 
and Indian Governments or the political interests in 
India, and the very fruitful potentialities of the statement 
of August 8th are, therefore, in abeyance for the present. 
Meanwhile, Mr. Gandhi went beyond the exercise of 
the right to express his conscientious objection to war 
by allowing Congress to oppose actively the recruitment 
of Indians in the armed forces, work in munitions fac- 
tories, and other vital activities of the national war effort. 
Some of the most prominent Congress men, including 
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, were arrested for their activities 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

in opposition to the national effort, and, as far as Congress 
is concerned, the situation tends to deteriorate. Never- 
theless, important individuals and elements in the pre-war 
Congress movement refuse to take any part in these later 
developments, and it seems clear that the movement is 
in process of one of those periods of disintegration which, 
as we have seen, are the inevitable outcome of its leaders' 
refusal to seize and exercise political power when it is 
offered to them. 

The interval between August 1940 and the summer of 
1941 has been by no means void of political importance 
and development. Unhappily, some of these developments, 
and primarily the renewal of Hindu-Muslim rioting in 
Bombay and elsewhere, have been such as to make more 
difficult than ever the achievement of a genuine agree- 
ment between the rival interests. The Indian Liberals or 
Moderates, whose chief spokesman now is Sir Tej Bahadur 
Sapru, made a constructive effort to end the existing 
deadlock by proposals which had as their main features 
the suggestion that a definite time-limit should be fixed 
for the attainment of Dominion Status by India and that 
in the reconstitution of the Governor-General's Executive 
Council on a more popular basis Defence and Finance 
should be placed under the control of experienced Indian 
members. Facilities were also demanded for the indus- 
trialization and militarization of the country. These 
proposals, however, do not seem to have raised any great 
enthusiasm either in India or in Great Britain, and very 
little has been heard since their promulgation. 

The fundamental truth of the Indian problem is that 
India is in the position in which the old American Colonies 
of Great Britain found themselves after 1 783, in which 
the Dominion of Canada was in the nineteenth century, 
and Australia at the beginning of the twentieth century. 


That is to say, her various peoples and interests are faced 
with the problem of finding a basis of agreement for the 
creation of a national government and a national life. 
It is nothing less than that. There is no question of the 
majority of the nation being held to ransom by the 
intransigeance of any minority groups, for the Indian 
nation and the Indian national government are not yet 
in existence. The same sort of act of creative statesmanship 
is necessary to turn the Indian provinces and states into 
a federally united nation as was necessary in each of the 
cases of the three great federations mentioned above. But 
such acts of statesmanship are only possible where the 
peoples and interests concerned have reached the point 
at which they can sink their separate and rival claims 
in the interests of the nation as a whole, and agree on 
all the basic conditions on which a national constitution 
can be built and function. The British Government is 
one of the interests concerned in this process a great 
and powerful interest, nevertheless only one of the interests 
and its part is clearly a limited one. 



A COMMENTARY on the judgments which form the last 
paragraph of the previous chapter has been provided by 
happenings in India since the summer of 1941, and, in 
particular, by the mission of Sir Stafford Cripps which 
revealed in striking fashion the fundamental conditions 
of Indian politics. 

Throughout the second half of 1941, recognition of 
the strain and urgency of the war undoubtedly grew in 
India, but only slowly. Until the entry of Japan into the 
war India was still far removed from the fighting front, 
and the German attack on Russia made no direct and 
immediate threat to India. Nevertheless, the expansion 
of the Indian Army, the steady growth of Indian war 
industries, and the feats of arms of Indian soldiers on the 
battlefields of Africa, brought home to the people of 
India with ever greater insistence, the fact that their 
stake in the war was not less than that of any other of the 
combatants. Political discussion tended to become aca- 
demic, although there was always a rumble from the 
Moslems among whom the Pakistan policy grew in 
favour, from the Hindu Mahasabha in opposition to the 
All-India Moslem League, and from one wing at least of 
the Congress Party. But the broad picture, until December 
7, 1941, was of a country going further and further into 
the war, by slow and easy steps, conscious of grave 
internal divisions, but resigned to their existence and 
apparently disposed to leave them alone until after the 

Yet, during these months, attempts to find 3, way out 
of the political impasse were not wanting. Although the 


The Cripps Mission 

breakdown of the negotiations attending the offer of 
August 1940 prevented the chief leaders of the various 
national interests and parties from joining the Viceroy's 
Council, Lord Linlithgow in July 1941 enlarged the latter 
to a membership of eight Indians (seven of them non- 
officials) and five Europeans. Some of the new Indian 
members were men of wide and real political influence 
even if they did not represent specific Congress or Muslim 
League points of view, and their presence in the Council 
gave it a far more representative character than it had 
before they joined. Also, a National Defence Council was 
formed to advise the Government on the defence of 
India, its members being persons prominent in the 
political life of the British Provinces and the Indian 
States. And, lastly, it was decided to exchange Ministers 
between Delhi and Washington and Delhi and Chung- 

The entry of Japan into full hostilities, and particularly 
the series of rapid and striking victories which brought 
her forces to the very gates of India, altered the situation 
radically. Within a few weeks the people of India found 
themselves right in the front line of the war, exposed to 
invasion and mortal danger. The reaction throughout 
the country was, broadly speaking, salutary. Leaders of 
the different interests and political parties saw and, what 
is more, acknowledged the need for national unity. 
From all quarters of responsible Indian politics came the 
resolve to resist Japanese aggression to the death. Pandit 
Jawaharlal Nehru himself, released from gaol in December 
1941, was as insistent as anybody that the Japanese 
attack on India must be resisted to the death. This 
healthy and patriotic reaction encouraged the British 
Government to make the most far-reaching offer ever 
made to India, and on March n, 1942, Mr. Churchill 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

announced that the War Cabinet had agreed upon a 
plan for India and that Sir Stafford Cripps would be 
going to India to lay it before the Indian Government 
and Indian political parties. (The choice of Sir Stafford 
Cripps as envoy was a wise one, for he had always been 
associated with progressive views on India and it could 
be safely assumed that all sections of opinion would have 
confidence in him.) He arrived in Delhi on March 23rd, 
and after a week's consultation with leaders of political 
opinion he published the War Cabinet's proposals. 
Briefly, these were for the creation of an Indian Union 
with full Dominion status. Immediately hostilities ceased, 
and before the signing of a peace treaty should bring 
the war technically to an end, general elections should 
be held in all the provinces of British India, and, out of 
the lower houses of the provincial legislatures thus elected, 
a single electoral college should be formed. This college 
would then proceed by proportional representation to 
elect a constitution-making body, equal in numbers to 
about one-tenth of the numbers of the electoral college. 
But if the leaders of the various political parties in India 
wished to choose the constitution-making body by some 
other means, they were at liberty to do so. Indian States 
would be invited to send representatives to the constitu- 
tion-making body in proportion to their population. Any 
constitution agreed to by the constituent body would be 
accepted by the British Government, but any province 
of British India not willing to enter into the proposed 
Indian Union could remain outside it. If such a province, 
by agreement, decide^ upon a new constitution for 
itself, then the British Government would agree to the 
constitution and give the non-acceding province similar 
status to that enjoyed by the Indian Union. But before 
responsibility was handed over from British to Indian 


The Cripps Mission 

hands, the British Government would enter into a treaty 
with the Indian Union regarding the protection of 
minorities in India, so as to honour pledges given in the 
past by the British to these minorities. The Indian Union 
would be able to state its own terms of association with 
the other British Dominions, and would not be bound 
in any way in this respect by the British Government. 

Sir Stafford Cripps spent some days in strenuous con- 
sultation with the chief leaders of Indian parties and 
political opinion, the discussion with the Congress Party 
leaders dealing mainly with the control of the Ministry 
of Defence. Sir Stafford made it clear that no fundamental 
change could be made in the War Cabinet's proposals, 
which laid it down clearly that the responsibility for 
India's defence during the war must remain with the 
British Government. Nevertheless, it looked for a time as 
though the proposals, far-reaching and thoroughgoing as 
they were, would receive general support, even from the 
Congress Party. But these hopes were doomed to be 
dashed. In the end, the All-India Moslem League, 
Congress Party, the Sikhs, and the Hindu Mahasabha 
all rejected the proposals, but for different reasons. 
Broadly speaking, the Congress Party leaders, namely 
Mr. Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Abdul Kalam 
Azad, President of the All-India National Congress, were 
more concerned with the immediate setting up of a fully 
responsible national government than with anything else, 
whilst the Moslems, Sikhs and Hindu Mahasabha were 
thinking primarily of the long-term political organization 
of India, and the enduring balance of political power 
therein. Thus, all these great interests opposed the 
proposal that any province of British India should have 
the right to stay out of the Indian Union, but all for 
different reasons. The Mohammedans thought that the 


India: The Road to Self -Government 

proposal was not sufficiently thoroughgoing and that the 
Pakistan plan, that is the secession of certain predomi- 
nantly Moslem parts of the country from India, should 
have found a place in the scheme. The Hindu Mahasabha 
objected precisely because they were afraid that it might 
lead ultimately to the Pakistan solution, or something 
like it, whilst the Sikhs objected to being regarded as 
merely one element in the Punjab, whereas they were in 
reality a distinct racial, social and religious entity. In 
short, the basic reaction was much the same as to the 
earlier proposals of August 1940, and within a day or 
two of the publication of the proposals it became obvious 
that they were going to share the same fate as the earlier 
proposals of 1940. 

A violent controversy broke out in India with the 
publication of the proposals, and Congress leaders were 
quick to say that they had been misled and that right 
up to the day of publication they had expected the 
proposals to contain a plan for a fully responsible national 
government for India. Sir Stafford Cripps, however, was 
able to refute this charge with ease. In the first place, it 
was obvious from the very text of the document which 
he took out to India, with its insistence on the reservation 
of the responsibility for the defence of India by the 
British Government, that nothing like a fully responsible 
national government for India was contemplated during 
the war. Then, in a broadcast on April nth, he showed 
that the setting up of such a government immediately, 
as demanded by the Congress Party leaders, would 
completely contradict all British pledges to the minorities. 
"Realize what this means," he said. "Government for an 
indefinite period by a set of persons nominated by Indian 
parties responsible to no legislature or electorate, in- 
capable of being changed, and the majority of whom 


The Cripps Mission 

would be in a position to dominate large minorities." In 
a word, precisely what all the great minorities in India,, 
including Moslems and Sikhs, were determined to fight 

Admittedly the situation left by the failure of the Cripps 
Mission is unsatisfactory, but, at any rate, the mission did 
accomplish the valuable result of showing the people of 
India and their leaders the extent and character of the 
obstacles to national unity, and it fixed the attention or 
the whole outside world, to an extraordinary extent, on 
the same thing. It is true to say that the realities of the 
Indian situation have never been so widely understood 
and the value of this understanding, both in India and 
outside, is that it must inevitably lead to a determined 
effort to find a solution for the problems whose character 
is now so well known. Inside India, the first political 
effect was that which we have seen has always happened 
when the opportunity for a forward constitutional move 
has been put before Indian leaders. The Congress Party 
was split. Mr. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru went back 
to the old ideal of passive resistance and non-co-operation, 
whilst a strong and influential section, led by Mr. Rajago- 
palachariar, believed that the time had come to consult 
with the Moslem League for the purpose of coming to 
an agreement which would make a national government 
possible. He is President of the Madras Legislative 
Congress Party, and on April 24, 1942, he persuaded his 
Party to pass a resolution to this effect. On May 2nd, 
however, at a meeting of the Congress Party, Mr. Rajago- 
palachariar's motion for recognition of the Moslem 
League's demands for separation was brought forward 
and was lost by 120 votes to 15. 

But it looks as though India will refuse to be diverted 
from her main purpose of helping to smash the threat ta 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

her life from the aggressive powers, and will not allow 
herself to be plunged into political strife in this hour of 
destiny. Her people and their leaders have undoubtedly 
taken to heart much of the lesson taught by the Cripps 
Mission and in this fact is hope for the future. 



Abdul Kalam Azad 139 
Afghan War, second 22 

third 69 

Africa Indian soldiers in 136 
Aga Khan, His Highness the 102, no 
Agriculture, Indian 28-29, ^7 
Akali Sikh agitation 64, 69, 70, 76, 77, 82, 83 
Alexandrine Library 33 
All-India Muslim League 94, 136, 139 
"All-Party" Conference, 1928 94, 95, 102 
American Colonies, revolt of 20, 23 
Amritsar 44 
Ashutosh Mukerji, Sir 31 

August 1940, Lord Linlithgow's statement 137, 140 
Aurungzeb 113 

Australia, example of, for India 26 
Federal Government of 51 

Bengal, jute industry 28 

Legislative Council under Morley-Minto reforms 36 

Partition 14, 34, 35 

working of Dyarchy in 63, 78 
Bihar, Congress Ministry in 1 29 
Bihar and Orissa 1 16 
Bikanir, Maharajah of 104 
Birkenhead, Lord 92 
Bombay, Congress Ministry in 130 
cotton industry 28 
Presidency, rioting in 1919 44 
Bombs in Legislative Assembly 101 

British Commonwealth of Nations, influence on India 24-6 
British Empire, essential character of 19 

opinion in, regarding Indian affairs 132 
British Government as arbitrator in India 1 13 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

British Policy towards India, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald on 106 
Burma 105, no 

Calcutta University 32 

Calcutta University Commission, 1915 31 

Canada, Act of 1791 51 

Act of 1840 51 

example of, for India 26 

Federal Government of 51 

pioneer of responsible self-government 2 1 

Provincial Ministries in 126 

union of Upper and Lower 24 
Canadian Constitution 103 
Carnatic 114 
Cawnpore, rioting in 108 

Central Legislature, work of, after 1920 elections 75 
Central Provinces, working of Dyarchy in 63, 78 
Charter Act of 1 833 13,21 
Chartist Movement 2 1 
Chirol, Sir Valentine 40 

describes an election 73 

Chungking exchange of Ministers with 1 37 
Churchill, Mr. 137 
Civil Disobedience 103, 107, 119, 123 
Civil War, reasons to hope India will be spared 1 14 
Communal Decision, by British Government 1 10-1 1 1 
Communal Representation 37-38, 39, 94, 96, 101 
Communications in India 29 
Conference, "All-Parties," 1924-25 81-82 
Congress and Moslem League joint scheme, 1916 40-41 
Congress Ministries in provinces resign 1 23 
Congress Party 57, 58, 77, 78, 80, 82, 83, 86, 87, 89-90, 91, 94, 

99, 101, 103, 107, 108, 118, 123-125, 126, 127, 129 
Congress Party 136, 139, 141 

Connaught, Duke of, inaugurates reformed Constitution 49 
Constituencies, delimitation of, under 1935 Act 120 
Council of State, voting for, in 1920 73 
Cripps, Sir Stafford broadcasts to India 140 
Crop failure, 1919 60 
Currency and Finance, Indian, Royal Commission on 85 



Curzon, Lord 23, 34, 35 

Das, Mr. C. R. 128 

Dcccan 114 

Declaration of August 1917 41, 42 

Democracy, basic principles of, in India 19-20 

Direct action in Indian Politics 82 

Dominion Status defined 20, 103, 1 14 

Dominion Status for India 19, 20, 99, 117, 119, 123, 134 

Duffer in, Lord 14 

Durham Report 24 

Economics and Politics in India 60-6 1 
Economic conditions in India after 1918 72 
Economic Legislation 58-61, 66-67 
Economic Problems in Provinces 59-60 
Education, indigenous, in India 32-33 

progress of, in India 30-33, 61, 66 
Edward VII, Proclamation of 1908 13 
Egypt, example of 71 
Election manifestos, Congress, 1937 127 
Election, principle of, introduced into India 23 

principle of, extended 36 
Elections, General, of 1923 58 

General, 1937 127 
Elections of 1920, in Provinces 73 
Electorate, Indian, under 1935 Act 126 
Elgin, Lord (the First) 51 
Engineering industry in India 28 
English language, creative r61e of, in India 33-34 
Epidemics in India 30 
Executive Council, Central 137 

under 1919 reforms 53 
under Morley-Minto reforms 37 
Executive Councils, Provincial, under 1919 reforms 53 

under Morley-Minto reforms 36 
Extremism in Indian politics 3940, 101 

Famine 30 
Famine of 1899 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

Financial relations between centre and Provinces under 1935 Act 


Financial Stringency effect on 1919 reforms 64 
Fiscal Convention 59 
Franchise Committee 106 

Gandhi, Mr. 44, 70, 75, 76, 77, 81, 84, 99, 100, 101, 102, 107, 
108, no, in, 117, 119, 123, 125, 128, 130, 133, 

*39> Hi 
General Elections in India, 1920 73 

of 1926, fought on communal lines 87 
George V, visit to India 40 

inauguration of Round Table Conference 102 
Ghadr party 44 
Gladstone, Mr. 22, 41 
Government of India Act, 1784 (Pitt's) 20 

19*9 25, 26, 36, 37, 42, 57, 58, 62, 63, 
65, 68, 70, 77, 78, 82, 83, 87, 
90, 92, 126, 128 

1935 68, 115, 117, 119, 123, 125, 128 
Government of India Act, 1935, inaugurated 1937 1 19 
Government of India Bill, 1 935 1 1 8 
Government of India under 1935 Act 1 17 
Government of India, functions of, under 1919 reforms 52, 55 
Governor, Provincial, functions of 62-64, 7 8 > * l6 127 
Great War, Indians in 56 

Habibullah Khan, Amir of Afghanistan 46 

Hardinge, Lord 40 

Hartog, Sir Philip 32 

Hindu-Muslim antagonism 24, 54, 71, 77, 83, 84, 85, 87, 88-89, 

9* 94 96, 103, 108-109, 113, 121, 122, 124, 134 
Hindu Mahasabha 136, 139, 140 
Hindus, Conference of Frontier and Punjab 109 
Hoarding 42 
Hoare, Sir Samuel 123 
Holy Roman Empire 113 
Hospitals in India 29 

Independence, Resolution 79, 91, 1 14 


Independent Party 78-79, 94 

India, Federation of 25, 104-105, no, in, 115, 116, 117, 120, 

iai, 124, 132 

linguistic fragmentation of 33-34 
Indian Air Force 130 
Indian Army 130 
Indian Civil Service 118, 128 
Indian Councils Act, 1861 13, 21, 23 
1892 13, 23, 36 
Indian industries 28, 41-42 
Indian Liberal Federation 94, 100, 119 
Indian Mutiny 2 1 , 32 
Indian National Congress, foundations of 22-23 

character, origin and development of 

*3r l 5> 39> 79> ioo> ii4>-ii5 120 
boycotts 1921 General Election 49 
1929 Session 99-100,114 
and Hitler's War 122 
preponderance of Hindus in 3 1 , 1 08 
Meeting at Surat in 1907 15 
Right Wing of, and Mr. Gandhi 75, 82, 
100, 128, 130 

Indian Nationalist Movement 15, 22, 32, 34, 41, 102, 119 

Indian Police Service 118, 128 

Indian Press 22, 36, 79 

Indian States, character of 24 

relations with British India 98, 104, no, 113, 115, 

124-125, 131 
mainly Hindu 126 

Indianization of Indian Army 106, 118 

Industries, Departments of, in Provinces 66-67 

Industry, modern, in India 28 

Imperial Conference, Indian delegates to 26 

Ireland, influence of, in India 71 

Irish Constitution of 1782 41 

Irish Home Rule Bill 43 

Irrigation in India 29, 59-60 

Irwin, Lord 83, 84, 85, 89, 90, 91, 92, 95, 97, 98, 104, 107 

Irwin-Gandhi Pact 107-108 

147 K* 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

Jallianwala Bagh 45, 69, 75 
Japan, victory over Russia 15, 70 

new political spirit in, after 1904 70-71 

entry into war 137 
Jawaharlal Nehru 137, 139, 141 
Jinnah, Mr. 94, 139 

Joint Free Conference, proposed by Sir John Simon 95 
Joint Select Committee, 1933-34 19 

on 1935 Bill 118, 119 
Justice Party in Madras 50, 73, 93 

Khilafat Movement 46, 69, 70, 71, 76, 77, 83 
Kohat riots of 1924 81 

Labour Unions, mushroom variety, after 1918 72 

Law Codes, revision of 58 

League of Nations, Indian delegates to meetings of 26 

India an original member of 43 
Legislative Assembly, Indian 47, 51, 69, 78, 79 

centre of gravity of Indian politics 75-76, 77 
Legislative Council, Central, under Morley-Minto reforms 36-37 
Legislative Councils, Provincial, in Morley-Minto reforms 35-36 
Legislatures, Indian, and 1935 Act 1 18 
Liberal Party, Indian 49, 93, 104, 118 
Linlithgow, Lord 122, 130, 133 
Local Government in India 23, 65-66 

MacDonald, Mr. Ramsay 98, 106-107, no 
Madras, cotton industry 28 

working of Dyarchy in 63 
Mahommad Ali 76 
Mahrattas 89 

Malabar, Hindus in, oppressed by Moplahs 76 
Mary, Queen, visit to India 40 
Mayo, Lord, Financial Reforms 25-26 
Meston Award 49 
Mining industry in India 28 
Ministry of Defence 139 

Minorities in India demand safeguards 87, 106, no, 111-1129 117 
Minto, Lord 23, 35, 39 



Mogul Emperors 89 
Mogul Empire 89, 113 

Mohammedan agitators, their arguments 70, 121 
Mohammedan representation, demand for, in legislatures and public 
service 80 

opinion on communal representation 39 
Mohammedans, attitude towards Federation 126 

reject principle of majority rule 109 

efforts to seduce, from military and police service 


co-operate with Simon Commission 93 
Monsoon of 1920 72 
Montagu, Mr. 41, 42 

Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, Financial provisions 49 

boycotted 72 
why not stillborn 73 
Montmorency, Sir Geoffrey de 108 
Moplah Rebellion 69, 76 
Morley, John 35, 37, 39, 41 
Morley-Minto Reforms 24, 25, 39, 41 
Mortality figures in India 61 

Moslem League and Congress joint scheme, 1916 40-41 
Muddiman Committee 63, 81 
Multan riots, 1922 64 
Municipalities in India 65 

National Defence Council 137 
National Demand of 1 924 80, 8 1 , 131 
National Volunteers 76-77 
Nehru, Pandit Jawaharlal 123, 133 
Nehru, Pandit Motilal 58, 80, 95, 99 
Nehru Report 95-96 
New South Wales Act of 1842 51 
New Zealand Act of 1852 51 
Niemeyer, Sir Otto 120 
Non-co-operation Movement 45, 69, 70, 71 
North-West Frontier 44, 46, 77, 94, 96, i 

October 31/1929, statement of, Lord IrwinJ 
Orissa 116, 130 


India: The Road to Self-Government 

Ottawa Agreements of 1932 59 

Pakistan Policy 136, 140 

Panchayats 66 

Parliament, discussion in, of Lord Irwin's statement of October 

1929 100 

Party System, lack of, in India 50 
Pax Brilannica 1 14, 115 
Political life, growth of, in India 85 
Political Prisoners 1 29 

Political Reforms in India, demand for, after 1926 87 
Politics in India, 1926-29 87 
Population in India, mainly rural 59 
Press Acts, abolished 58, 75 

Princes, Indian 97, 104, 116, 120, 122, 124-125, 126, 132 
Provincial Autonomy 89, 106, 116, 117, 126-127 
Provincial Cabinets under 1935 Act 116-117, 118, 129 
Provincial Contributions 49 
Provincial Legislative Councils, under 1919 reforms 51, 82 

under 1935 Act 126 
Provincial Legislatures, Powers under 1919 reforms 54-55 

composition of, after 1920 elections 74~75 

and Simon Commission 95 

proposed representation of various interests 

in 1 10 

Public Safety Bill i o i 
Punjab, Country Party in 50 

rioting in 1919 44, 71, 75 
wool industry 28 
working in Dyarchy in 63 
Punjab Panchayat Act 66 

Railways in India 29 

Rajagopalachariar, Mr. 141 

Rajkot State 125 

Reading, Lord 58, 81, 83, 84, 89, 125 

Reform Act, 1932 43 

Representation, principle of, introduced into India 2 i 

Reserved and Transferred Subjects 47, 52, 63 



Resolutions in Central and Provincial Legislatures 57-58 
Responsible self-government in British Empire 20, 51 
Responsible self-government for India 41, 43, 53 
Responsibility to Legislature, lack of, in India 90, 117 
Responsibility of Executive to Legislature, possible in All-India 

Federation 107 
Responsive Co-operation 82 
Responsive Co-operators 104 
Revolutionaries in Bengal 43, 79, 108 
Revolutionary Movement in India 43-46 
Ripon, Lord 22 
Round Table Conference 19, 57, 84, 85, 88, 1 13, 115, 1 16, 119 

Sub-Committees of 105-106 
Rowlatt Bills 45 
Rowlatt Committee 45 
Rupee Stabilization Bill 85, 86, 87 
Rural Co-operation in India 61, 67-68 
Russo-German War 136 
Russo-Japanese War 1 5 

Safeguards 106-107, 117, 118 
miuority 116, 117 
Saiyid Ahmad, Sir 39 
Sapru, Sir Tej Bahadur 95, 1 34 
Schools in India 29 
Shah Jehan's Canal 60 
Shaukat AH 76 

Sikh Community 50, 109, no, in 

Sikh emigrants, connection with revolutionary movement 44 
Sikh Gurdwaras (Temples) Bill 64 
Sikhs 139, 140, 141 
Silver bullion 42 
Silver rupee 42, 85 
Simon, Sir John 92, 95, 98 
Simon Commission 32, 58, 87, 92-96, 98, 104 
Simon Commission Report 98 
Sind 94/96, 1 01, 105, 1 06, 116 
Small Industries in India 61 

India: The Road to Self-Government 

South Africa, Constitution 51 

Federal Government of 51 

Provincial Ministries in 127 

Union of 24 

Standard of Living in India 6 1 

Statement, British Government's, August 8, 1940 131 
Statutory Inquiry into 1919 Act 91 

Tagore, Sir Rabindranath 7 1 
Tata iron and steel works 28 
Thirty Years War 1 14 
Tilak, B. G. 15 
Trade Union Legislation 42 
Transferred and Reserved Subjects 47, 52, 63 
Transport industry in India 28 
Turkey, entry into war of 1914 1 8 44 
peace treaty with 71, 77 

Union Boards, analogy with Parish Councils 66 

Union of India proposal for 1 38 

United Provinces, Congress Ministry in 129, 130 

cotton industry 28 

leather industry 28 
United States, ghadr party in 44 
Untouchables 106, no, in 

Versailles, Treaty of 43 

Viceroy, overriding powers of, under 1 935 Act 1 1 6 

Viceroy's train, attempt to derail, December 1929 100 

War Advisory Council for India 131 

Washington exchange of ministers with 137 

Waterloo 114 

Wedgwood Benn, Mr. 97, 123 

Westminster, Statute of 20, 117 

White Paper, of March 1933 116 

Indian, of October 18, 1939 122 
World War, second 121, 1 33 
Wyllie, Sir Curzon, murder of 43 

Zetland, Lord 122 

particulars of publications 

of similar interest 

issued by 








India's Teeming Millions 
by Dr. Gyan Chand 


The author of The Financial System of India and The Essentials qf 
Federal Finance here deals with what is probably India's basic problem : 
population. He is realistic, examining the present economic position 
and its trends in the light of the general principles of population 
theory, coming to the conclusion that India is overpopulated and 
that restriction of population is for her an urgent necessity. 

The chapter titles of the book are : Teeming Millions (introductory 
chapter), The General Theory, Growth of Population, Births and 
Deaths, The Balance of Births and Deaths, Economic Position, 
Economic Outlook, Is India Over-populated? Birth Control and 
Anticipations. Throughout the book argument is based on the 
results of factual research. 

The author's standing needs no comment. He was President of 
the All-India Economic Conference held at Nagpur. 

The Industrial Worker in India 
by B. Shiva Rao 

Demy Quo Illustrated 

"Shiva Rao's book contains chapter after chapter of facts about the 
life of the people in India which to the British reader seem almost 
incredible." Forward 

The Problem of Minorities in India 
by K. B. Krishna 

Demy Quo 155. net 

"The only thoroughgoing analysis of the Hindu-Muslim question 
that has appeared up-to-date. It is a wonderful book. ... It is the 
book of the hour." Mulk Raj Anand in The Daily Worker